Philip Wilson, Australian Archbishop © Darren Pateman
Former president of the Australian bishops' conference Philip Wilson is dead. Outreach to abuse victims is 'part of his legacy,' says Archbishop Patrick O'Regan. Wilson had himself been convicted of cover-up and acquitted again.
Former Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson has died at age 70. Although Archbishop Wilson was seriously ill, his death on Sunday came as a surprise, the archdiocese announced. The president of the Australian Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, called Wilson a "true man of the church and good friend who suffered much" on Twitter. Wilson led the Archdiocese of Adelaide from 2001 to 2016 and the bishops' conference from 2006 to 2010.
Archbishop Patrick O'Regan, Wilson's successor in Adelaide, said Wilson had made important contributions to the church and had been popular throughout the country. But O'Regan also recalled allegations of cover-ups of sexual abuse cases, as well as Wilson's role as former president of the bishops' conference in reforms of the church's handling of abuse cases.
Accusations, conviction, acquittal
"A horrific time of allegations, accusations, convictions and eventual acquittal was an important chapter in Philip's life, but how his support and advocacy for victims and those affected are also part of his legacy," Archbishop O'Regan said "Philip knew the hardship that many people have endured and suffered at the hands of the sickening acts of some in the Church. He was part of the solution and was widely recognized for it."
Wilson had initially been sentenced in July 2018 to 12 months in prison for covering up abuse cases, which was shortly thereafter commuted to house arrest. Under prere from the Australian government and public, Wilson resigned as Archbishop of Adelaide following his conviction. In December 2018, the conviction on appeal was overturned for lack of evidence.
Wilson was ordained a priest in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese in 1975; allegations of abuse cover-up related to that time. After his episcopal ordination as bishop of Wollongong in 1996, Wilson became a central figure in the Australian church's reform of its handling of abuse cases. His tenure as president of the bishops' conference included World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008, with a visit by Pope Benedict XVI.