Bishop James celebrated his final Mass as Bishop of Cairns on Sunday night, with a congregation at St Monica's Cathedral that he remarked was reminiscent of Christmas or Easter.
A simple ceremony began immediately after Mass when Bishop James vacated the cathedra - or bishop's chair - and tied a tassel across it, to remain vacant until the appointment of a new bishop. Vicar General Fr Frank Gordon invited Bishop James to lay his crozier on the altar to indicate his intention to vacate the See of Cairns. The crozier is a bishop's staff crafted to resemble a shepherd's crook, symbolising the pastoral role of keeping a flock together.
Sr Faye Kelly RSM, Mayor Bob Manning and Vicar General Fr Frank Gordon thanked Bishop James for his commitment to the people of the Cairns Diocese and his steady leadership over three decades. Sr Faye recalled Bishop James' many visits to the furthest areas of the diocese, including Weipa, Thursday Island and the numerous towns throughout the Gulf Savannah. A hallmark of Bishop James' episcopacy has been the Diocesan Synod 2008 - 2018 which called together the priests, deacons, religious and lay parishioners from across the diocese. These synods were an opportunity for all the faithful to discuss and plan for the pastoral needs and vision of the diocese.
Mayor Bob Manning expressed his appreciation for Bishop James' considered oversight of Catholic education, health, welfare and aged care in the Cairns region. "During my years of public life I have been thankful for the guidance and the friendship of Bishop James Foley", he said.
Fr Frank congratulated Bishop James on the thirtieth anniversary of his ordination as bishop of Cairns and thanked him for his unique contribution to the bishop's conference of Australia. Fr Frank said, "Thank you, James, for being our good shepherd. I see that goodness not just in your pastoral oversight and care for the whole flock, but also in your personal one-to-one ministry".
"To use shepherd language again - welcoming the stray, healing the wounded, encouraging stragglers, comforting the weak and the dying... you readily offered a listening ear and words of compassion and healing", he said.
The congregation was invited to say a prayer of blessing over Bishop James and the ceremony concluded with a farewell blessing from the retiring bishop.
The Mass and farewell ceremony can be viewed on the Diocese of Cairns YouTube channel.