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Thomas Williams (cardinal)

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Thomas Williams

Cardinal, Archbishop of Wellington
Williams in 2011
Appointed30 October 1979
Installed20 December 1979
Term ended21 March 2005
PredecessorReginald Delargey
SuccessorJohn Dew
Other post(s)Cardinal-Priest of Gesù Divin Maestro alla Pineta Sacchetti
Ordination20 December 1959
by Gregorio Pietro Agagianian
Consecration20 December 1979
by Owen Snedden
Created cardinal2 February 1983
by John Paul II
Personal details
Born(1930-03-20)20 March 1930
Wellington, New Zealand
Died22 December 2023(2023-12-22) (aged 93)
Waikanae, New Zealand
DenominationRoman Catholic
Previous post(s)Ordinary of the Military Ordinariate of New Zealand (1995–2005)
MottoUnity in Christ
Coat of armsThomas Williams's coat of arms

Thomas Stafford Williams ONZ ChStJ (20 March 1930 – 22 December 2023) was a New Zealand cardinal in the Catholic Church and the fifth Archbishop of Wellington from 1979 to 2005.

Early life and education[edit]

Williams was born in Wellington, New Zealand, and educated at Holy Cross Primary School, Seatoun; SS Peter and Paul School, Lower Hutt; St. Patrick's College, Wellington; and St Kevin's College, Oamaru. He obtained a Bachelor of Commerce degree at Victoria University College, and worked for some years as an accountant. During his studies, he was deeply involved in the Catholic Youth Movement (YCW) and for a period worked full-time for the movement. In 1954, he commenced studies for the priesthood at the National Seminary, Holy Cross College, Mosgiel, Dunedin. In 1956 he was sent to the Pontifical Urban University in Rome, where he obtained a licentiate in theology and was ordained a priest on 20 December 1959. Later he received a social sciences degree from University College Dublin.[1]


Early church career[edit]

Returning to Wellington, Williams served as assistant pastor and as Director of Studies at the Catholic Enquiry Centre. He left that post when he volunteered to serve as a missionary in Samoa (today the Archdiocese of Samoa-Apia), where he was parish priest for five years. He returned to New Zealand in 1963 and became parish priest at St. Patrick's in Palmerston North for two years. This was followed by four years as Director of the Catholic Enquiry Centre in Wellington. In 1971 he moved to Leulumoega, Samoa and returned to New Zealand in 1976 to the Holy Family Parish in Porirua East.[2][3] He celebrated the 60th year of his ordination in December 2019.[4]

Archbishop of Wellington[edit]

Williams became Archbishop of Wellington on 20 December 1979 – his 20th anniversary of priestly ordination[5] – following the death of Reginald Cardinal Delargey. His principal consecrator was Owen Snedden, long-term Auxiliary Bishop of Wellington. Williams was created Cardinal-Priest of the titular church of Jesus the Divine Teacher at Pineta Sacchetti by Pope John Paul II on 2 February 1983.[6]

Styles of
Thomas Williams
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal
SeeWellington (emeritus)

He was additionally appointed Military Ordinary in 1995. He was appointed a Member of the Order of New Zealand, New Zealand's highest civilian honour, in the 2000 Queen's Birthday Honours.[7][8]

Williams campaigned strongly against the passage of the law allowing civil unions in New Zealand saying it would turn New Zealand into a "moral wasteland".[9] He also campaigned against the expansion of casinos.[10]

Conclave and retirement[edit]

Williams was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI.[11] He resigned as Archbishop of Wellington on 21 March 2005 having reached the age of 75 and was succeeded by Coadjutor Archbishop John Dew.[12]

In retirement, Williams lived at a retirement village in Waikanae. He died there on 22 December 2023, at the age of 93.[13]

Selected works[edit]

  • In his own words: a tribute to Cardinal Thomas Williams. ISBN 0-86469-476-8


  1. ^ "Williams, Thomas Stafford". catholicnewsagency.com. CNA (Catholic News Agency). Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  2. ^ "Archbishop Emeritus". catholic.org. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  3. ^ "Williams, Thomas Stafford". catholicnewsagency.com. Catholic News Agency (CNA). Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  4. ^ "Cardinal Tom Williams – 60 Year Jubilee | Archdiocese of Wellington". 6 March 2020.
  5. ^ "Wellington Cardinal celebrates 50 years of priesthood". catholic.org. New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  6. ^ "Williams, Thomas Stafford". catholicnewsagency.com. Catholic News Agency (CNA). Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  7. ^ "Cardinal Thomas S Williams ONZ DD". catholic.org. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  8. ^ "Queen's Birthday honours list 2000 (including special list for East Timor)". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 5 June 2000. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  9. ^ "NZ gay law 'to make moral wasteland'". cathnews.com. 7 August 2004. Archived from the original on 7 August 2004. Retrieved 31 August 2017.
  10. ^ "News Features – Catholic Culture". catholicculture.org. 21 January 2013. Archived from the original on 21 January 2013. Retrieved 31 August 2017.
  11. ^ Johnston, Martin. "NZ prelate backs bags for Rome". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  12. ^ "Wellington Cardinal celebrates 50 years of priesthood". catholic.org.nz. New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  13. ^ "RIP Thomas Cardinal Williams 20 March 1930 – 22 December 2023". Scoop Regional. 22 December 2023. Retrieved 22 December 2023.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Archbishop of Wellington
30 October 1979 – 21 March 2005
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of the New Zealand Episcopal Conference
Succeeded by
Preceded by Cardinal Priest of Gesù Divin Maestro alla Pineta Sacchetti
2 February 1983 – 22 December 2023
Conference established President of the Federation of Catholic Bishops' Conferences of Oceania
Succeeded by
Preceded by Military Ordinary of New Zealand
1 June 1995 – 1 April 2005
Succeeded by