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Parliamentarian, real estate guru awarded papal knighthoods

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From left: Archdiocesan Chancellor Chris Meaney, Geoff Laing, Greg Smith SC, with Bishop Daniel Meagher. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
From left: Archdiocesan Chancellor Chris Meaney, Geoff Laing, Greg Smith SC, with Bishop Daniel Meagher. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Former New South Wales Attorney-General and pro-life warrior Greg Smith QC has “been in a lot of fights and will keep on fighting” thanks to personal encouragement from Pope Francis and the example of his Lord.

The passionate leader is one of two prominent Catholics to receive a papal honour on 15 March for decades of commitment to the faith and church in Sydney.

Bishop Daniel Meagher presented Smith with the award of Knight Commander of St Gregory the Great in recognition of his contribution as a faithful Catholic leader in the civic sphere, his example of charity in personal and professional life, and staunch defence of the dignity of human life.

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Smith has served as president of Right to Life NSW and the St Thomas More Society and is currently chair of the board of Catholic Cemeteries and Crematoria—a role he has held during a recent takeover attempt by the NSW government.

But he told The Catholic Weekly he thought his greatest contribution has been his family.
“Juli and I have five adult children and they are all sticking by their faith, which is unusual in families today,” he said.

“But we’ve got to remember that our founder died on the cross and rose again—he had a big fight and we’ve got to keep up with it.”

Referees commended him as a gentleman of the “highest personal integrity and a deep Catholic faith” who serves all without distinction.

“His commitment to the care of human life from conception to natural death has been a notable feature of all his contributions to public life,” read the citation for his award.

Bishop Meagher said while he found it disappointing to see Catholic politicians “go soft in the face of opinion polls” that was “never true of Greg.”

“Like many others, he recognised what is at stake in our society today. If we fail to live the truth of who we are, our society lives according to lies and we all suffer as a result,” he said.

John McCarthy QC, Chair of the Sydney Archdiocesan Anti-Slavery Taskforce and one of Smith’s nominees, said the recognition was long overdue and “deeply deserved.”

Real estate guru Geoff Laing has shown that a little business acumen can go a long way in helping to preach the Gospel and care for the needy.

In helping to acquire 10 acres of land in outer southwest Sydney in the 1980s, he laid foundations for the parish and schools which are flourishing at the bustling suburb of Carnes Hill today, explained Bishop Daniel Meagher at the award ceremony at Chapter Hall.

“People are coming closer to God, a great deal of credit needs to go to Geoff and our other property and financial advisors, who from behind the scenes do so much to allow God’s work to be done,” Bishop Meagher said.

“Carnes Hill is just one example.”

Laing’s award of a Knighthood of St Sylvester was given in recognition of his extensive and long contribution to the archdiocese in the areas of finance and property management, including as a member of its finance council from 1990s-2019 and of its property committee since 2015.

His family company has provided property acquisition advice and property management services to the archdiocese since the 1980s.

“He is held in the highest esteem by all who know him either in a professional or personal capacity,” Laing’s award citation noted.

“His willingness to serve the church faithfully without recognition or reward has been an inspiration to many.

“His advice, often voluntarily offered, has proved vital in ensuring the stable and ongoing financial viability of the archdiocese over many decades.”

Laing said he felt “very humbled” to receive the award, which he also accepted in recognition of his business partners and brothers, Tony and Michael Laing, and the support of his wife Carel.

“It’s been a long, enjoyable and privileged connection with the archdiocese over the years and I think a lot has been achieved,” he said.

The awards were conferred by Pope Francis on the recommendation of Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP.

They were presented by Bishop Meagher in St Mary’s Cathedral Chapter Hall in the presence of Archdiocesan Chancellor Chris Meaney, in a ceremony attended by the awardees’ many family members, friends and colleagues.

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