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First woman ever to hold a post in the Roman Curia

· Church leaders mourn death of Rosemary Goldie ·

Rosemary Goldie, who died at the Little Sisters of the Poor, Randwick, on Saturday evening, 27 February, at 94 will be remembered as a great champion of the Catholic laity.

Born in Manly on 1 February 1916, raised by her maternal grandmother and educated by the Sisters of Mercy at Our Lady of Mercy College, Parramatta, she went on to make a huge contribution to the Church internationally, mainly during the second half of the 20th Century.

One of the highlights of Rosemary Goldie's fifty years as a Rome-based Church bureaucrat came in 1964, when she was one of the first women appointed an auditor at the Second Vatican Council. After the Council she served for several years as Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council of the Laity. No woman had ever occupied a higher position in the Roman Curia. Rosemary took up residence in Rome in October 1952, after being recruited to work for the Permanent Committee for International Congresses of the Lay Apostolate (copecial).

Much in Rosemary's life up to 1952 had helped to prepare her for what lay ahead. Her earlier life had included her days as an Arts student at Sydney University and the awarding of a French Government scholarship which took her to Paris and its Sorbonne University in 1936 at the age of 20. There, among other things, she sat at the feet of Jacques Maritain, the renowned scholar, philosopher and expert on the laity's part in the Church.

After Pope John XXIII's stunning announcement in January 1959 that he was convening an ecumenical council (Vatican ii), the Permanent Committee was given a role in preparation for the event. They had input at the Council on matters relating to the laity, chiefly in regard to the proposed Decree on the Lay Apostolate, and eventually in connection with what emerged in 1965 as the great Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.

COPECIAL was also consulted on the appointment of lay auditors at the Council. In 1962 and 1963, only men attended the Council sessions in this capacity. The big breakthrough came in 1964, at the third annual gathering, when women auditors were invited to be present – a move without precedent in the Church's history. It was no surprise when Rosemary Goldie was one of the first appointed.

The third and final International Congress of the Lay Apostolate took place in 1967. Again, Rosemary was part of the organising group. It was in the same year that the Committee for which she had been working was replaced by the new Pontifical Council of the Laity, to which she received the historic appointment as one of its two Undersecretaries.

In her final years in Rome, Rosemary was still active. Working in a crowded office in the Palazzo San Calisto, overlooking the façade of the beautiful old church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, she researched the history of the many decades in which she had laboured for the Church and in particular for the Catholic laity. The resulting book, From a Roman Window , appeared in 1998. Rosemary also prepared for publication the autobiography of her largely absentee mother, Dulcie Deamer, a novelist and famous Bohemian identity of the 1920s in Sydney: The Queen of Bohemia, also published in 1998.

Much could be said about Rosemary Goldie's associations with eminent and not so eminent people. Pope Paul VI called her “our co-worker”. Blessed John XXIII famously described her as “ la piccinina ” (“the little bit of a thing”). Bishop Albino Luciani, long before he became John Paul I, defended her staunchly in a letter to chaplains of women's associations. John Paul II visited her in her Trastevere office in 1979 and received a copy of her autobiography from her own hands 20 years later. And she was one of the celebrities whom Benedict XVI visited privately during the 2008 World Youth Day. She had known the present Pope well during her days in Rome.




St. Peter’s Square

Nov. 20, 2019