This registered letter from the Apostolic Delegation, 40 Edward Street, North Sydney, N.S.W. has a distinctive purple handstamp of the APOSTOLIC DELEGATION/ NORTH SYDNEY and the blue Australian 5½d stamp is postmarked NORTH SYDNEY/ 30 AU 43/ N.S.W. It is addressed to His Excellency The Most Rev. Mgr. L. Kierkels, C.P., Apostolic Delegate, Bangalore (Mysore), India. There are 2 additional handstamps, a black octagonal ‘D/ 3' and a purple ‘2’ in a circle. The former is probably a tax mark for underpaid postage (Figure 1).
The reverse has both the same purple APOSTOLIC DELEGATION/ NORTH SYDNEY, and the same North Sydney, N.S.W. postmark on the front, as well as another NORTH SYDNEY/ N.S.W AUST postmark (Figure 2).
The Apostolic Delegation, North Sydney occupied the site of Rockleigh Grange, the former home of the artist Conrad Martens from 1838 until his death in 1878. The house was substantially enlarged and rebuilt by a Mr. Larke and then the Hon. John Hughes, M.L.C. owned the house until his death in 1912. The estate was auctioned in 1913 and the Catholic Church purchased Rockleigh Grange converting it into the Apostolic Delegation. The property became a Catholic Teachers’ College in 1978 ad now is the Mackillop Campus of the Australian Catholic University.
The information on Archbishop Leo Peter Kierkels is surprisingly fragmentary even though he was a Catholic priest for almost 51 years and a bishop for 26½ years. He was born in Holland, the place of birth and his parents unidentified, on the 12 December 1882 and he was ordained at the age of 24 on 22 December 1906, as a priest of the Congregation of Passion, hence the initials ‘C.P.’ after his name. At the age of 48 on the 23 March 1931 he was appointed Titular Archbishop of Salamis (also known as Salamina, one of the Greek Islands), as well as Apostolic Delegate to India. At the age of 65½, on 12 June 1948 he was appointed Apostolic Internuncio to India, a position from which he resigned in 1952. Just months short of his 75th birthday he died on 7 November 1957 at a place unknown, his position at death being Apostolic Nuncio Emeritus to India.
During his service in India, Bishop Leo Kierkels, C.P., first as Apostolic Delegate and then, following the independence of the country as Pro-Nuncio Apostolic, there was no move to found the Congregation of Passion in India except during the final years of the presence of Bishop Kierkels. One reason might have been that the missions were the responsibility of a single province and these were oriented towards areas where language or other ties to the mother country existed that would facilitate their work. Bishop Kierkels was later in favour of the decision to enter the Indian subcontinent; however he was of the opinion that we accept the offer to establish a foundation in Ceylon. The foundation in Ceylon was seen as a point of entry into India. Bishop Kierkels also pointed out that in the south of India there was a greater possibility for vocations and keeping the entire Passionist observance, whereas the possibilities of the same in the north were considered to be minimal. A picture of Bishop Leo Peter Kierkels, C.P. is shown in Figure 3.