Broome Bishop Christopher Saunders has a huge challenge attending to a flock of 10,000 Catholics spread over 773,000 square kilometres in Western Australia’s north-west. Source: Have A Go News.
One of the biggest dioceses in the world, it has been extensively traversed by Bishop Saunders in car, truck, bus, boat, on foot and by plane.
The son of a wartime Spitfire pilot, Bishop Saunders doesn’t fly the church Cessna any more – they now employ a pilot for that – but his calling takes him well into the red dirt and along the Kimberley coast.
“There are people who fall through the cracks who need assistance,” says Bishop Saunders who heads a team of 20 religious sisters and 14 priests plus many helpers.
“I make the 15th priest. I didn’t join the Church to become a Bishop. I joined to become a priest,” he says in his Broome office.
Bishop Saunders is a familiar face all over the north-west and known and respected by Church leaders, politicians, business leaders and movers and shakers.
He was a close friend of late British Lord Alastair McAlpine who is credited for the sympathetic development of Broome. Bishop Saunders helped lead the service for Lord McAlpine’s funeral in London.
Ordained a priest in 1976, he was named bishop of the Broome in November 1995 and appointed in 1996.
Since then, the affable Church leader has overseen his team operating 13 schools, facilities, food and clothing for the needy including a four-day-a-week soup kitchen and support for the homeless in the north-west. He is recognised for his contribution to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Bishop Saunders played a key role in the Vatican Museum’s Indigenous collection known as the Australia Catalogue. The exhibit at the Vatican Museum is the first one seen by visitors leaving the Sistine Chapel – a nod to the place of Indigenous Australians as the world’s oldest continuous culture.
The Broome Diocese helped fund the printing of the collection’s accompanying book, Australia, the Vatican Museum’s Indigenous Collection.