Catholic Outlook

It’s an honour: John Aquilina and John Thomas receive Papal knighthoods

03/02/2012

A warm welcome for Papal knights (from left): Phil Fehon, John Aquilina, Bishop Anthony, John Thomas, and John McCarthy. Photography: Alphonsus Fok & Grace Lu.
A warm welcome for Papal knights (from left): Phil Fehon, John Aquilina, Bishop Anthony, John Thomas, and John McCarthy. Photography: Alphonsus Fok & Grace Lu.

Catholic Outlook, February 2012

During the Solemn Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral on 18 December 2011, Bishop Anthony Fisher OP invested John Aquilina KSG as Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great and John Thomas as Knight of the Equestrian Order of Pope Saint Sylvester.

It was a great surprise to the men when Bishop Anthony announced the Papal honours and Fr Arthur Bridge AM, Chair of the diocesan Ecclesiastical and Civil Honours Committee, read the citations.

Bishop Anthony said the honours were a great tribute to the two men, who had served God and His Church very well indeed. “I add to the honours conferred by the Holy Father my own particular gratitude for the services these two men have performed,” he said.

John Aquilina is a member of the CatholicCare Social Services Council and the Catholic Schools Council in the Diocese of Parramatta.

John Tomas served for many years as Chairman of the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta Finance Council.

“Papal Orders of Chivalry are chiefly a means by which the Pope distinguishes those who have particularly served the Church,” Bishop Anthony said.

“Sir John Aquilina and Sir John Thomas are now entitled to tie their horses outside the church, are invited to wear their uniforms to major diocesan functions such as ordinations, but are asked to leave their swords and pistols at the door.

“We thank the family and friends of the two new knights who brought them along to Mass today not knowing what was to happen to them! I also thank Fr Arthur Bridge and through him the committee for assisting me in proposing our two candidates to Pope Benedict XVI.”

Also present to welcome the new Papal knights were Phil Fehon and John McCarthy, both Knight Commander of the Order of St Gregory the Great.

John Aquilina said he was both honoured and humbled to receive the recognition. "I do not believe that mine has been an extraordinary life. Rather, I have always tried to live my life as true as I can to the faith, beliefs, values and traditions with which I grew up.

"If, by doing so, I have somehow been seen to be a witness to the upholding of Catholic values, then so be it. I am only able to do what I do by the grace and glory of God, and it is for this that I offer daily prayers of gratitude.”

John has had a distinguished career in public life, stepping down from politics in 2011 after 33 years. "I extend my heartfelt thanks to all those people who have sustained me during my long public career,” he said. 

"In particular, I thank my family, my departed parents, Joe and Stella, and especially my Maltese heritage, which has nurtured in me a strong sense of the Catholic faith, beliefs, values and traditions."

John Thomas said he thought he was being presented with a small citation and had no idea he was to receive a Papal knighthood. “It was very unexpected.”

“My sincere thanks to Bishop Anthony for this honour and to the members of the Diocesan Finance Council who in my view are all co-recipients of this award.

“My thanks also to my parents, Paul and Dorothy, for instilling in me my Catholic faith and for being living examples of service to the Church and society in general.

“Finally my heartfelt thanks to my wife, Therese, for without her unconditional love and support nothing would be possible.”

To read Bishop Anthony’s homily click here.

To view the photo gallery click here.


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