Australia's Prime Minister Taps Catholic as New Governor General

Gen. Peter Cosgrove is Popular Figure and Decorated Former Military Chief

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Australia’s new Governor General is a practicing Catholic who for the past four years has served as Chancellor of the Australian Catholic University, said to be the largest English speaking Catholic university in the world.

Peter Cosgrove, a former head of Australia’s armed forces, was appointed to the post by Prime Minister Tony Abbott today. He begins his five-year term in March.

As a constitutional monarchy within the Commonwealth, Gen. Cosgrove will act as representative of Queen Elizabeth II, undertaking many of the duties normally given to a head of state on her behalf.

A popular figure in Australia, he won the Military Cross as a soldier in Vietnam, and commanded international peacekeeping forces in East Timor in 1999. He was named Australian of the Year in 2001 for being a role model to the country’s citizens.

Gen. Cosgrove, 66, served as chief of the defence forces from 2002 until 2005, overseeing Australia’s participation in the Iraq War coalition.

Educated by Christian Brothers, he once said he was given an education which “always showed me right from wrong.”

“It didn’t always prevent me from taking silly courses, and disappointing myself and others, but it wasn’t through ignorance of a better pathway’, he told the website Australian Catholics.

He said the 1950s Catholicism he was raised with was a “robust” faith, rather than a “finely-tuned, passive faith”. Being Catholic was as much a cultural designation as it was about belief, he said.

Prime Minister Abbott, who was elected last year, is also a practicing Catholic.

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