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Bishop Hart named Archbishop of Melbourne

Pope John Paul II has confirmed speculation that Melbourne Archdiocese Auxiliary Bishop Denis Hart will succeed Archbishop George Pell on Friday evening by announcing his appointment as the new Archbishop of Melbourne.

The news was released at 8:00 pm Melbourne time by the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Francesco Canalini.

Bishop Hart said in a statement released on Saturday: "I will work hard to promote unity of faith in the Catholic tradition with Jesus Christ as its centre. I will work energetically to gather the Church in Melbourne around Pope John Paul II in the Universal Church." 60 year old Bishop Hart was educated by the Jesuits before entering Corpus Christi Seminary and being ordained to the priesthood in 1967. He was Prefect of Ceremonies for the Archdiocese for 27 years until 1996, when he was appointed Vicar General of the Archdiocese. He was ordained Auxiliar Bishop in 1997.

The Age suggested Bishop Hart's appointment "will almost certainly mean that the most controversial policy changes implemented by Dr Pell will remain in place".

Bishop Hart told reporters that he will follow Archbishop Pell's lead in reflecting Vatican opposition to homosexuality and women's ordination.

He also said that while white Australians must work together to achieve reconciliation with the Aboriginal commuity, he respected the views of Prime Minister John Howard. He described as "simplifying the matter just a little bit" the recent comments made by Sydney's new Anglican Archbishop, Peter Jensen, that Mr Howard was "out of touch with God" over the issue.

ACBC/Melb. Archdiocese/Age/AAP