Eulogy by Rabbi Raymond Apple, delivered on his behalf at the funeral service for Bishop Geoffrey Mayne AM DD, on Wednesday, 24 September, 2003.
It may never have happened before that a bishop should be eulogised in a cathedral by a rabbi. But for many years Bishop Mayne would say to me, “I want you to speak at my funeral,” and though I used to reply, “Geoffrey, what’s the hurry?”, I suppose I realised that the day might come. Hence, in fulfilment of his wish, and because I am currently chairman of the Religious Advisory Committee to the Services, and of course thanks to the courtesy of the Church authorities, I have the sad privilege of offering this eulogy.
Most of Bishop Mayne’s distinguished clerical career was spent in the Australian Defence Force. With members of the ADF, and especially in the Navy, he had an Aussie relationship of bluntness, banter and fierce loyalty. With the chaplains who worked with and later under him, he had a brotherly relationship of concern, care and support. With his multi-faith colleagues in the Religious Advisory Committee, where for so long he was the doyen, he had a relationship of mutual respect and trust.
We did not and could not always agree; we each have and had our own commitment and conscience, and none of us could or did resile from the position of our own faith tradition, but we worked well because we were united in our belief in spiritual and moral standards. On occasion Bishop Mayne insisted on going alone in defending the Catholic position, but his tenacity went with good humour, dignity and collegiality. He would take on all the service chiefs if he felt that religion or chaplaincy was not getting a fair deal, and though the rest of us might not have stepped out so boldly, he could carry his protest to the highest quarters and sometimes even win the day.
He was Bishop Mayne, but he was Geoffrey too, and we loved him for his foibles. He had a liking for certain parts of the Jewish cuisine, and many a time I had to bring him from Sydney a packet or two of matzah, Passover unleavened bread. He probably never quite worked out how he came to have a bond with a rabbi, but he used to tell Catholic colleagues about his friend the rabbi (I know because they told me), and I used to tell members of the Jewish community about my friend the bishop.
Geoffrey Mayne served his faith, his people and his conscience with determination, honesty, openness and dignity. I say this for two reasons — and neither of them is that I am telling you anything you did not know. The two reasons I pay this inadequate tribute to him are the two reasons why anyone ever gives a eulogy — for his own sake, to assure the Almighty that this was a man who deserves well in the world of Divine judgment, and for the sake of those he served and led, to ensure that his name and memory remain an inspiration.
Bishop Geoffrey, colleague and friend – go in peace. May your sleep be sweet, and may your memory be a blessing.