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Vale Johno Johnson: A servant of the people of God and a fine Australian

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Johno Johnson, pictured in December 2014, doing some of the good work for which he was well known and loved — fundraising for good causes. Photographer Giovanni Portelli gave on Facebook his account of meeting Johno and of taking this photo.

Large numbers of Catholics in Sydney are today mourning the death of John Richard (Johno) Johnson, who passed away at 3am on 9 August, 2017, aged 87.

The Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Fr Gerald Gleeson, issued letters to his brother priests, asking them to remember Johno in their Masses, and to staff of the chancery and other Church agencies, asking them to remember him in their prayers:

“Johno was the Chairman of the Board of The Catholic Weekly for ten years and was outstanding in his commitment to the Church; always taking a strong stand in his political life to support the Right to Life movement, being outspoken against euthanasia, and providing his leisure time to assist causes within his Parish including the work of the St Vincent de Paul Society,” Fr Gleeson wrote.

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“He also was renowned for his devotion to the trade union movement, the Australian Labor Party, and the Irish community.

“Initially an official of the Shop Assistants’ Union, Johno later became Financial Officer of the NSW Branch of the ALP and was elected a Member of the Legislative Council in 1976, becoming President of that body from 1978 to 1991.

“Declining health saw him committed to nursing home care early last year …

“I extend deep sympathy to his wife Pauline, their four children and other members of the family.

“May the soul of John Richard (Johno) Johnson rest in peace.”

The Leader of the NSW Opposition, Luke Foley, issued a statement earlier today, the full text of which appears below:

“For more than 60 years Johno Johnson has been the enduring presence in New South Wales Labor.

“This morning he left us, aged 87, passing away peacefully in the company of family, in Randwick.

“Johno was a mentor, counsellor and confidante to half a dozen generations of Labor Party activists.

“More than anyone I know, Johno personified the tradition within the Labor Party of fidelity to Catholic social teaching.

“Through all of his life he believed in, and worked for, the principle of the common good, the dignity of labour and the preferential option for the poor.

“Johno held papal knighthoods and life membership of the Labor Party, reflecting his ceaseless work for the two faiths he held to all his life.

“Born in Murwillumbah, he was a grocer and trade union official before entering politics. He served as director of the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney and was chair of the Catholic Newspaper Company, publishers of The Catholic Weekly. He was also member of the New South Wales Board of Lotteries and the federal Cancer Council.

“Johno always maintained that the Labor Party was good to him. It gave him 25 years in the Legislative Council, 13 of them as its President.

“The Labor Party was good to him. But Johno Johnson gave far more to the Labor Party than it ever gave him.

“I have spoken with Pauline this morning, with whom Johno enjoyed 55 years of loving marriage, and extended condolences on behalf of all Labor Party members to her, their children and grandchildren.”

Former Prime Minister and MP for Warringah, Tony Abbott, rose to speak in the Australian Parliament of his respect and affection for someone he described as “a fine Australian” (video below).

A funeral Mass for Johno Johnson will be at St Mary’s Cathedral on 18 August, but details are still being finalised.

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