Former Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson has been farewelled at a funeral at St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral.

Key points:

  • Former Adelaide Catholic Archbishop Philip Wilson died unexpectedly in January
  • He has been remembered for his “many contributions” to the Catholic Church
  • A child sex abuse survivor says he felt “insulted” by the praise for Wilson

The Catholic Church paid its respects to the 70-year-old, who died unexpectedly last month.

Several church leaders spoke including Apostolic Nuncio Adolfo Tito Yllana, who also read a statement from Pope Francis.

“His holiness Pope Francis was saddened to learn of the death of Archbishop Emeritus Philip Wilson, and he sends heartfelt condolences,” he said.

The Pope praised Emeritus Archbishop Wilson for his “expertise in cannon law”, his “many contributions” to the Catholic Church of Australia, and his “Christian perseverance amid suffering”.

About 200 mourners paid their respects.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

In 2018, Emeritus Archbishop Wilson became the highest-ranking Catholic in the world to be convicted of concealing child sex abuse, over paedophile priest Jim Fletcher’s crimes in the Hunter Valley in the 1970s.

The conviction led him to resign but it was later quashed on appeal, with a court finding there were doubts he had been told about the abuse.

He served as Archbishop from 2001 to 2018, and also served as the Bishop of Wollongong during his 45 years with the Catholic Church.

A procession led the hearse containing former Archbishop Philip Wilson’s coffin through Adelaide’s CBD.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

Health issues plagued later years

The Catholic Church said Emeritus Archbishop Wilson had suffered “a series of health problems in recent years, including cancer”.

The Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Adelaide, Bishop Greg O’Kelly, said the former Archbishop had accomplished several “significant ventures during his administration”.

“Newly ordained as a Bishop, Philip threw himself into the challenge of addressing the sexual abuse crises that were besetting the Wollongong Diocese.

“When he left Wollongong, the mayor of the city said he ‘played a leading role in restoring the credibility of the Catholic Church’.”

Victim of child sex abuse ‘personally insulted’

Not all agreed with the praise.

Child sex abuse survivor, Peter Gogarty, said the characterisation of Emeritus Archbishop Wilson as a protector of children was “personally insulting”.

Mr Gogarty said he suffered abuse at the hands of Jim Fletcher while the priest was said to be living in Philip Wilson’s Maitland house during the late 1970s.

Not all have mourned the death of Archbishop Wilson.(AAP: Dan Himbrecht)

“I don’t think that the Catholic Church has any genuine understanding of what it is for people to genuinely suffer, I mean the Archbishop has lived an extraordinarily privileged life,” Mr Gogarty said.

“To the extent that he may have suffered when these accusations came up against him, it pales into insignificance when you compare that to the tens of thousands of children who have suffered from their childhood throughout their lives.

“The people who could not tolerate the pain anymore who have ended their own lives.”

At the funeral Bishop Greg O’Kelly spoke of the “disgraceful and insulting treatment” he received from the media.

But Mr Gogarty disagreed.

“If we want to talk about disgusting treatment that did damage, well I would happily sit with any bishop in any forum and let’s compare notes.”