The mortal remains of Bishop Robert William Willson – Tasmania’s first Catholic bishop – have returned to Hobart following his exhumation from the Nottingham Cathedral, England. Archbishop Julian met Bishop Willson’s mortal remains at Hobart International Airport, with Fr Shammi Perera and Fr Terry Rush.
"It was quite an emotional moment to receive the body of the first bishop of Tasmania. One hundred and fifty one years after he died, he's returned here and it was his request and his expectation that he would be coming back to Tasmania.
“It was always his intention and his wish to come back to Tasmania and he very much saw himself as living out his retirement here in Tasmania and being buried in Tasmania,” Archbishop Julian said.
In 2016 a crypt was added to St Mary’s Cathedral in Hobart, paving the way for Bishop Willson’s return. Nottingham Cathedral agreed to the Archdiocese of Hobart’s request, and exhumed his coffin from the crypt of the Cathedral Church of St Barnabas (Nottingham) on 14 February.
“It has been a long-standing Catholic Tradition that bishops are buried in the crypt or under the cathedral, in their own cathedral church.
“So I think this is very significant for the archdiocese that we have our first bishop to be buried in the crypt at St Mary’s Cathedral,” Archbishop Julian said.
Following the journey from England, Bishop Willson’s mortal remains arrived in Australia (Melbourne) precisely 152 years to the day that he left Australia in 1865 for one final visit home to England. During that visit to England he suffered a fatal stroke, and resultantly was buried in Nottingham.
The exhumation process in Nottingham was a detailed process that commenced on 8 February and continued until the coffin was exhumed on 14 February, overseen by the Reverend Canon Geoffrey Hunton of the Cathedral Church of St Barnabas.
Bishop Willson’s mortal remains will be interned in the crypt at St Mary’s Cathedral, at an official ceremony in May 2017.