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Knox, James Robert


Cardinal archbishop of Melbourne, curia official, papal legate; b. Bayswater, a suburb of Perth in Western Australia, March 2, 1914; d. Rome, June 26, 1983.

One of three children born to John Knox, an immigrant from Kilkenny, Ireland, and the former Emily Walsh, who died when James was still a child. He attended local schools but was forced to interrupt his education in order to help support the family during the Depression years. When later he sought to enter the seminary, he applied to the abbot at the distant Abbey Nullius of New Norcia, then a suffragan See of Perth, in the hope of joining the small group of priests already incardinated in this widespread rural diocese. (At the time, the archdiocese of Perth did not have a seminary, and depended entirely on applicants from Irish seminaries for its clergy.) Knox completed his secondary education at St. Ildephonsus' College in New Norcia, and in 1935 he began studies at the abbey seminary. Later he joined other Australians at the Propaganda Fidei in Rome where he was ordained on Dec. 22, 1941. He remained in Rome during World War II, earning a doctorate in theology, and he did graduate studies in canon law. In 1945 he joined the staff at Propaganda Fide becoming vice-rector in 1947.

The year 1948 marked the beginning of his career with the Vatican diplomatic corps. Working in the Secretariat of State, he developed a friendship with Archbishop Giovanni Battista Montini, who was to become Pope paul vi, that endured through the years. Named to the Camerieri Segreti Soprannumerati (Chaplains to His Holiness), Monsignor Knox was appointed secretary to the apostolic delegation in Japan in 1950. In 1953, he was consecrated titular archbishop of Melitene and named Apostolic Delegate to Eastern and Western British Africa with his residence at Mombasa (Kenya). During his four years in that position many native African priests were nominated as bishops. In 1957, Knox was appointed Apostolic Internuncio to India and Apostolic Delegate to Burma and Ceylon (Sri Lanka). In the ten years he served as representative of the Holy See in the Indian subcontinent, a period that spanned the duration of the Second Vatican Council, Archbishop Knox was instrumental in creating many new dioceses and in the development of religious communities in both the Oriental and Latin rites, including the missionaries of charity founded by Mother Teresa.

Post Vatican II. In 1967, then 53 years old, Knox was appointed to succeed Justin Simonds, as archbishop of Melbourne in his native Australia. During the six years he served in that see, Knox instituted a long list of reforms in the spirit of Vatican II: the division of the archdiocese into regions under the pastoral care of three auxiliary bishops; the naming of eleven episcopal vicars; the reorganization of the provincial seminary at Clayton; the adaptation of the sanctuary of the cathedral to conform with the liturgical requirements of Vatican II; the establishment of the Melbourne Education Board and Parish Education boards as well as the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria; the introduction of recurrent funding from federal government sources in 1970; the funding of non-government teachers' colleges and the amalgamation of the existing Catholic colleges into the Institute of Catholic Education; the establishment of additional regional secondary schools and the creation of 20 new parishes with parish schools in each. He fostered missionary endeavors in the archdiocese and supported missionary projects in New Guinea and Venezuela through the Melbourne Overseas Mission. In February of 1973 Melbourne hosted the Fortieth International Eucharistic Congress.

At the Consistory of March 5, 1973, Pope Paul VI nominated Knox to the College of Cardinals, and six months later called him to Rome to become the prefect both of the Sacred Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments and of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship. It was Knox's task to merge these two dicasteries into one. In 1975 Paul VI approved the formation of the new Congregation for Sacraments and Divine Worship, with Knox as prefect and Archbishop Antonio Innocenti as secretary. In addition to his responsibilities as prefect of the Congregation for Sacraments and Divine Worship, Knox was an active member of other congregations, and on several occasions he served as special envoy of both Paul VI and John Paul II. In May of 1981, Pope John Paul II appointed him the first president of the newly formed Pontifical Council for the Family.

His health began to decline in the summer of 1982, but he continued his work. Stricken with a circulatory failure in May of 1983, while attending a meeting of the Congregation for Oriental Churches, Cardinal Knox died a few weeks later. He is buried in St. Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne.

Bibliography: Annuario Pontificio, 1945; 1946; 1949; 1950; 1953; 1954; 1958; 1968; 1974; 1975; 1982; 1983. Official Directory of the Catholic Church in Australia, 196970; 198182; 198586. L'Osservatore Romano, June 2728, 1983; July 2, 1983. L'Osservatore Romano (Eng.) July 4, 1983; July 11, 1983.

[w. a. mullins]

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