Most Reverend Anthony Fisher OP
Anthony Fisher is Archbishop of Sydney, a Dominican friar, and a moral theologian. He is a member of several Vatican bodies, Vice-President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, and has several national and state roles in the Church, especially in education. He has lectured and published in bioethics, moral theology, history, and spirituality.
Archbishop Anthony was born in Sydney on 10 March 1960, the eldest of five children, to Colin Fisher, a pharmacist of Anglo-Irish heritage, and Gloria Maguregui, a Basque-Romanian immigrant who grew up in China and the Philippines.
He was baptised Anthony Colin Joseph at St Thérèse Lakemba on 3 April 1960 and attended the parish school in 1965 and 1966. After the family moved home, he attended St Michael’s Lane Cove, Holy Cross Ryde, and St Ignatius’ Riverview. He gained bachelors’ degrees in Arts and Laws at the University of Sydney. While a university student, he had his feet washed on Holy Thursday night by Cardinal Freeman and recalls thinking: “This is as close as I’ll ever get to the Archbishop of Sydney.” God had other plans!
Archbishop Anthony practised law at Clayton Utz in Sydney. He took leave from his legal job to backpack around Europe discerning his vocation. He then embraced the life of a friar and priest, which he says he has always loved.
In December 2015, he contracted Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a rare autoimmune disease which resulted in radical paralysis. After a long rehabilitation he was blessed with complete recovery. He wrote of his experiences in The Healing Peace of Christ: Reflections on Illness and Recovery, Death and New Life (St Paul’s, 2017).
His hobbies include writing, tennis, cinema, and cooking.
In 1985 Archbishop Anthony entered the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) and in 1987 he took his vows. He studied in Melbourne, receiving an honours degree in Theology from Yarra Theological Union (now the University of Divinity). He was ordained priest at Holy Name Wahroonga, on 14 September 1991, by Bishop Eusebius Crawford OP. He was Master of Students (seminarians) in the Dominican Order and Socius (deputy) to the Provincial.
On 16 July 2003 Pope John Paul II appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney, and he was ordained bishop by Cardinal George Pell on 3 September. On 8 January 2010 Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Bishop of Parramatta. On 18 September 2014 Pope Francis appointed him Archbishop of Sydney and he was installed at St Mary’s Cathedral on 12 November 2014. His episcopal motto is “Speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
Over the past two decades Archbishop Anthony has served on the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference commissions for Doctrine and Morals, for Pastoral Life, for Health and Community Services, for Family, Youth and Life, for Education, and on the Permanent Committee (Executive). Since 2018 he has been Vice-President of the Conference.
In 2022 he was invited by the United States Catholic Bishops Conference to conduct the week-long retreat for all the bishops. He presently serves on five Vatican bodies: the Pontifical Academy for Life, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Dicastery for the Oriental Churches, the Council of the Synod of Bishops, and the Pontifical Academy of St Thomas. He was a member of the Synod of Bishops on Youth in 2018 and of the Synod on Synodality in 2023-24.
Archbishop Anthony was Parish Priest of Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish, Watsons Bay from 2003-10.
As Bishop of Parramatta he oversaw the consultations, publication and implementation of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan, Faith in Our Future, aimed at growing and sharing faith, and focussed upon families, youth, ethnicity, vocations and evangelisation. He also modernised the chancery, communications, professional standards and other aspects of the diocese.
At his Installation Mass as Archbishop of Sydney, Archbishop Anthony outlined his vision:
“My hope is for a Church in which the Gospel is preached with joy, the wisdom of our tradition mined with fidelity, the sacraments celebrated with dignity and welcome, and the seminaries, convents and youth groups teeming with new life; a Church in which our parishes, chaplaincies and educational institutions are true centres of the new evangelisation, our laity theologically literate and spiritually well-formed, our outreach to the needy effective and growing, and God glorified above all.”
As Archbishop he has overseen consultations for the renewal and reconfiguration of the parishes of Sydney known as Parish 2020, and the development and implementation of a new Mission Plan, Go Make Disciples.
Preaching and teaching are the archbishop’s particular passions. Through homilies, pastoral letters and discourses he has addressed a wide range of questions. He has a popular weekly column in The Catholic Weekly, and engages through YouTube, Facebook and X (Twitter). He has made annual contributions to the Sydney Catholic Business Network. In 2019 he spoke on “Conscience, Relativism and Truth: The Witness of Newman” at the conference organised by the Angelicum University in Rome on the eve of Newman’s canonisation. In 2022 he gave the Erasmus Lecture for First Things in New York City on “The West: Post-Christian or Pre-Christian?” He also gave the first annual Newman lecture for the University of Notre Dame (UNDA) and the Australian Catholic University (ACU) on “Newman and the Religion of the Future”.
Academic and educational
Archbishop Anthony has degrees in history, law and theology, an Oxford doctorate in bioethics, and two honorary doctorates. From 1995 to 2000 he was a lecturer in the Australian Catholic University, and from 2000 to 2003 Director of the Melbourne’s John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family. Thereafter he was Deputy-Chancellor of the Catholic Institute of Sydney and, since 2014, its Chancellor. He is an Adjunct Professor in the University of Notre Dame and a senator of the Australian Catholic University.
He has published more than a hundred scholarly articles in bioethics, moral theology, history, law and spirituality, as well as more popular pieces. His most recent books include: Unity in Christ: Bishops, Synodality, and Communion (Catholic University of America Press, 2023); My Dear Young Friend: Letters on Youth, Faith and Future (St Paul’s, 2018); War and Terror, Peace and Hope (St Paul’s, 2018); The Healing Peace of Christ (St Paul’s, 2017); and Catholic Bioethics for a New Millennium (Cambridge University Press, 2012).
At the ACU he trained many future Catholic school teachers. As a bishop he served as Chair of the Sydney Catholic Schools Board, the Parramatta Catholic Education Board, and the Catholic Education Commission of New South Wales. He has worked extensively with education leaders and staff on the mission and identity of Catholic schools. He is currently Chair of the members of Catholic Schools NSW, a commissioner of the National Catholic Education Commission, and chair of the Bishops Commission for Catholic Education.
Evangelisation and youth
Archbishop Anthony was Co-ordinator of World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, the largest youth gathering in the history of Australia: it is estimated half a million people attended the Papal Mass. He then served as the Bishops Delegate for Youth for many years, promoting youth ministry throughout the country. He has led large delegations of pilgrims to the several international World Youth Days.
As Archbishop, he has directed a renovation of the evangelisation and youth ministries of the Archdiocese. The Sydney Centre for Evangelisation is now the premier agency in this area in the country. It has promoted considerable parish renewal and growth in faith and faithful.
In 2017 he hosted the third Australian Catholic Youth Festival which drew 19,000 young people to a three-day festival of faith in Sydney. In October 2018 he participated in the worldwide Synod of Bishops on Youth, Faith, and Vocational Discernment. He hosts meals and discussions for student leaders of Catholic schools and for youth ministers.
Archbishop Anthony is now a familiar commentator in the national media. The annual “Christmas at the Cathedral” light show has become a Sydney Christmas tradition.
Bioethics and moral theology
Archbishop Anthony’s academic qualifications are in moral philosophy and theology, especially bioethics. He has lectured in bioethics in several universities in Australia and around the world, and has many publications in this area. He has helped train many health professionals and contributed to academic conferences. For more than two decades now, he has been a Member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the body that advises the Church on bioethics. He has been a member of the Infertility Treatment Authority of Victoria, a member of several hospital ethics committees, and co-author of the Catholic Health Australia Code of Ethics. He was Episcopal Vicar for Life and Health in the Melbourne Archdiocese and later in Sydney.
Social justice and service
In 1990-91 Archbishop Anthony worked at Uniya, a centre for social research in Kings Cross, and wrote the Bishops’ justice statement for 1991 on immigration and refugee issues. He has worked with Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other religious leaders to diminish prejudice and build strong relationships between people of faith. He played a key role in some moments of national mourning, hosting interfaith prayer services at St Mary’s Cathedral following the Lindt Cafe siege, the murder of Curtis Cheng, and the Christchurch attacks in March 2019.
In November 2015, as a direct response to the violence and persecution faced by millions of Syrians and Iraqis, Archbishop Fisher launched an appeal to provide low-cost accommodation, education, and other support for refugees. He initiated the “Archdiocesan Anti-Slavery Taskforce” addressing the issue of trafficking and modern slavery today, and the “End Street Sleeping Collaboration” to assist with social housing, interventions and services. He conducts “Sydney Street Feast” in the forecourt of St Mary’s Cathedral for the homeless and hungry. He has also been an active participant in the Sydney Catholic Business Network.
Archbishop Anthony has been a passionate advocate of formation and support for marriage and family. He is also an enthusiast for priestly and religious vocations. He was Director of Vocations in the Sydney archdiocese in the lead up to World Youth Day. Following a significant increase in vocations to the priesthood in the Diocese of Parramatta, he directed the building of the new Seminary of the Holy Spirit at Harris Park. As Archbishop of Sydney he established the Sumner House for vocational discernment, and has regularly visited the two seminaries in the Archdiocese. In recent years the Sydney seminary has had a record number of newcomers, there have been many ordinations, as a result of which the average age of the Sydney clergy has been steadily declining.