01 Jul 2019

Precious document in good hands

The Southern Cross  |  July 1 2019

Precious document in good hands

When Pope Pius XII decided to appoint Matthew Beovich as Archbishop of Adelaide, he did what popes before him had been doing for centuries and issued a papal bull – an official decree confirming in writing the appointment effective as of December 11 1939.

But as the diary of Archbishop Beovich attests, the document was despatched in a mail bag carried by a Dutch airliner which crashed in the sea near Java. The mail bag was the only item salvaged from the wreck shortly after and the cylinder containing the papal document was posted by the Dutch authorities to the Apostolic Delegate in Canberra. When opened, it was a ‘mass of pulp’, according to Archbishop Beovich, due to its long spell on the sea floor.

‘With drying and careful treatment,’ wrote Beovich, it was restored to ‘something like its former state and was easily decipherable with the Pope’s seal intact’.

After Beovich’s episcopal ordination and installation as Archbishop of Adelaide on April 7 1940 the papal bull was presumably stored in the Archives where it remained for the next eight decades.

As part of her routine assessment of items, Archdiocesan archivist Lucy Farrow decided to explore the possibility of conservation because of the bull’s historical value and importance to the Archdiocese.

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