Chronology of Catholic Dioceses:Notes on the Diocese of Maitland 1847 and 1866

The Diocese of Maitland was erected with a very small territory on 27 May 1847. The source The HC, v. VIII, confirms this on page 360, under the heading "Maitlanden(sis)"`: note 1: "25 iun. 1847 Pius PP. IX novam dioec. in Australia erigit c. sede in civ. Maitlanden, absque alio territorio...."; note 2: "9 iul. 1847 Richardus Placidus Burchall, OSB, prior in coll. S. Edmundi Duacen. (Douai), promovetur ad Maitlanden. et deput. coadi. archiep. Sydneyen... sed munus non acceptavit.". Note 3 gives the nomination of Charles Henry Davis, OSB, to Maitland and as coadjutor of Sydney.

The ODCA, page 124, states: "As established in 1847 the Diocese of Maitland consisted of the Borough of East Maitland only. By Papal Brief of April 13, 1866 it was very much extended, and by Papal Brief of May 10, 1887, it was reduced."

In Australia, the early Maitland see (1847-1866) is sometimes erroneously described as a titular see. According to the Roman documents noted above, Maitland did have a territory, albeit very small. Since the first two nominations to Maitland also included the new bishop being coadjutor of Sydney, the Roman authorities obviously knew that the new bishop would have few duties in his new diocese.

Such an arrangement might indeed be unique in the history of the dioceses organized by the Propaganda Fide - creating a diocese with almost no territory and then making the new bishop coadjutor of another diocese. It is possible thaat there was every intention of creating a diocese at Maitland; that it was known that it would be some time before the diocese could actually function on its own; and that the contemporaneous nomination of the Bishop of Maitland as Coadjutor of Sydney was made with the thought that the new bishop would have sufficient time to set up a solid diocesan structure.

The document making Maitland more like a "diocese-like" diocese in 1866 is reproduced here:


To the everlasting memory of God.

Because of the duty of the Pastoral office, divinely given to Our lowliness, We especially direct Our cares and Our thoughts to those parts of the Lord's flock, which arc separated from this centre of Catholic Faith by vast extents of land and sea.

Therefore, if by chance it should happen that in those farflung parts we know that we ought to provide for the pastoral role and for the safety and greater good of the Christian religion by setting tip new dioceses or suddenly eliminating existing ones, we promptly do this by our Apostolic authority.

In the setting tip of the Maitland See in Australia, suggested by our venerable Brother, John Bede Polding, Archbishop of Sydney, somewhat narrow boundaries were fixed by us for that Diocese. We have personally listened to the view point, not only of the celebrated Archbishop, but also of the Venerable Brother, James Murray, Bishop of Maitland. Therefore it seems that the time has come when the territory of the Maitland Diocese should he conveniently extended. By these letters and with Our Apostolic Authority, on our own initiative, with definite knowledge and full deliberation, we decree and establish that the boundaries of the Maitland Episcopal See in Australia must he those which are noted below (the whole matter being carefully examined along with Our Venerable Brethren the Cardinals, following the arrangements proposed by the Propagation of the Faith).

To the north: The farthest boundaries of the New South Wales colony, and the Namoi and Hastings Rivers by which it is separated from the Armidale Diocese. To the east: The Ocean. To the west: The Macquarie and Erskine Rivers as far as the town of Talbragar; from there a straight line to the Blue Mountains, then to the source of the Turon River. Then to the South: A straight line drawn from the Redhead promontory to the top of Mount Sugarloaf; from there through the peaks of the mountains south of Wollombi which separate the valleys of the Hunter and Hawkesbury Rivers, to the source of the Turon River in the Blue Mountains. Furthermore, we desire and command that, for certain reasons, the city of Newcastle, although in the Maitland Diocese according to the boundaries given to that See, should remain, during the life-time of the Sydney Archbishop, under the administration of that same Archbishop of Sydney, along with its port and suburban area.

We decree that these steadfast, valid and effective letters of Ours are in existence and will thus continue; that their full and entire effects are desired and maintained, and that those people are full approved whom they concern, and as long as they will concern them; and so, among the foregoing matters, anything must he judged and defined as invalid and void by any ordinary or delegated judges, as well as by the hearers of Causes in the Apostolic palace, if it should happen to be interfered with, knowingly or in ignorance, by any authority whatsoever.

(The foregoing decisions hold good): to the contrary.
By our lawful and inviolable regulation and that of the Apostolic Chancellery, in so far as there is need; in spite of any other general Councils brought forth, whether Apostolic, universal and provincial as well as synodal, or any Apostolic Constitutions and Ordinances; even those of the said Maitland Church; when accompanied by a sworn Apostolic confirmation; or in spite of. statues and usages supported by any other force; and anything else of any kind Despatched from St. Peter's, Rome, under the Seal of the Fisherman, on 13th April, 1866, the 20th year of Our Pontificate.


A translation of the Papal Bull which established the Diocese of Maitland is printed above. The document, issued under the seal of Pope Pius IX and signed by Cardinal Clarelli, is dated 13th April, 1866.

CT - with information from Mr. Charles N. Bransom and from Mr. David Billington

av Webmaster publisert 30.09.2004, sist endret 30.09.2004 - 12:00