Chestertonians in Australia and elsewhere will be greatly saddened at the passing on November 19 of Fr Paul Stenhouse, Editor of the monthly magazine Annals Australasia.
Annals was Australia’s oldest Catholic journal, having been published continuously for 130 years by the religious order, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC). It closed at the end of 2019, though it is hoped that a new form of the journal will be established in 2020.
Remarkably, Fr Stenhouse served as Editor of Annals for a substantial part of the journal's history - 51 years. He gave it the sub-title, “Journal of Catholic Culture,” and the richness of his religious and cultural knowledge, and his editorial flair and insight, were manifested in every issue.
He had a special devotion to G.K.Chesterton, and often published articles on Chesterton, as well as lengthy quotations from his writings. He spoke at several Chesterton conferences at Australia’s liberal arts college, Campion College, including at the most recent conference last October. In the past few months his health deteriorated rapidly and, very sadly, he died soon after the Chesterton conference; but it was a little miracle that he managed to come to the campus that day to deliver a 50-minute paper.
Fr Stenhouse made numerous contributions to public life as a journalist, and to academic scholarship as a translator and analyst of ancient works. No one wore their learning more lightly than Paul Stenhouse, but he was widely recognised as an expert on the Middle East, both in ancient Semitic cultures and languages and in modern Middle Eastern politics and religion. His last book, published only this year, was a collection of essays on Islam (Islam: Context and Complexity). Furthermore, he combined his scholarship with his journalism, serving at times as a foreign correspondent – for example, during the long-running War in Lebanon (1975-1990).
He managed to combine all of these activities - as editor and journalist, and scholarly work with his primary vocation as a Catholic priest. Not for nothing was he given the moniker, “Priest of the Arabian Nights”, because of his ability to read the Arabian Nights in the original language!
May his great soul rest in peace.
President, Australian Chesterton Society
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