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‘Larrikin priest’ Father Bob Maguire dies, aged 88

Father Bob Maguire dies in Melbourne

Much-loved Catholic priest and social justice campaigner Father Bob Maguire has died at the age of 88, his foundation confirmed on Wednesday.

Known universally as Father Bob, the sometimes controversial Melbourne cleric was known as much for his sense of humour as he was for his social justice advocacy and faith.

He was parish priest of Sts Peter and Paul’s Church in South Melbourne from 1973 to 2012, until he was ordered to retire as an active priest by the Catholic Church because of its rules that priests had to retired at age 75.

Hundreds turned out to his final service.

Since then, Father Bob had been a frequent commentator on social issues and retained a loyal following on social media, as well as the foundation in his own name.

Born in 1934 in the Melbourne suburb of Thornbury to Scottish immigrant parents, Father Bob entered the Catholic seminary in 1953 and said he was immediately struck by the conservative nature of some of the church’s methods.

He later irreverently referred to the seminary as “the cemetery”.

After being ordained as a priest in 1960 at the age of 25, he joined the Army Reserve in 1965 and became head of the army’s Character Training Unit for young officers during the Vietnam War.

The beloved charity campaigner only stood down from his role as chairman and the board of the Father Bob Maguire Foundation just five days ago.

Labor MP Ged Kearney was among the first to pay tribute on Wednesday.

“[Father Bob] was an unstoppable force; he never missed a beat fighting for social justice and community,” she tweeted.

Tasmanian senator Helen Polley said he was “an Australian who gave so much to so many people. Always vocal and effective in improving the lives of some of our most marginalised”.

Former Labor MP Emma Husar also paid tribute.

“His irreverence for the Church, his love of the marginalised and consistency as a slave to his own values is something the world needs more of. A true disruptor of the status quo,” she tweeted.

“Vale Father Bob you made the world better with your light. You are already missed.”

Father Bob was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1989 for his service to homeless youth. He was named Victorian of the Year in 2011.

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