The remains of Perth's first Catholic archbishop are expected to be unearthed in Karrakatta Cemetery today by a Church-led team of archaeologists who will move them to the crypt beneath St Mary's Cathedral.
Patrick Joseph Clune, who notably served as senior chaplain to Catholic Diggers in World War I and came close to negotiating a truce in troubled Ireland in the 1920s, became the first archbishop of the newly formed Archdiocese of Perth in 1913.
He was buried in Karrakatta in 1935 after a grand funerary procession down St Georges Terrace.
On Monday, a team led by churchman and archaeologist Father Robert Cross oversaw the removal of the ornate monument serving as a grave marker and yesterday started exhuming the clergyman's remains.
Archbishop Clune is the last of seven notable Perth bishops and archbishops that Father Cross and his team have exhumed from graves as far afield as France, so they can be reinterred in the new octagonal shaped marble and stone crypt beneath St Mary's Cathedral.
Father Cross said the Redemptorist order to which Archbishop Clune belonged only recently agreed to the remains being moved.
The final exhumation was expected to be a technical challenge.
"The other ones we've exhumed were more recent, from 1968 onwards," Father Cross said. "We're digging up (remains from) 1935 here and I don't think they had plastic-lined coffins. From what I have seen down there, it looks like the wood has decayed substantially. I suspect we can't take him out whole. I expect we'll have to take him out bone by bone."
Renowned as a great orator, Archbishop Clune became well known after visiting troops on the Western Front in France during World War I.
The Irish-born Redemptorist was close to brokering a temporary truce between Irish Sinn Fein leaders and the British government in the 1920s, but his diplomacy was said to have been derailed when the Tory wing of the Cabinet demanded the Irish surrender all weapons.
Father Cross, whose team will search the last 10cm of soil in the grave for artefacts, said Archbishop Clune's remains would be examined briefly and then held at a Bowra and O'Dea funeral home until September 3.
He will be reinterred at St Mary's on that day to coincide with the centennial anniversary of the creation of the Perth Archdiocese.
Father Cross said it was fitting that Archbishop Clune, who began an expansion of the cathedral but was forced to halt construction because of a lack of money during the Great Depression, would be laid to rest in the recently refurbished place of worship.
"This is bringing him home to his cathedral," Father Cross said.