posted on 29 May 2001
Today at All Saints Pastoral Centre and tomorrow in Westminster Cathedral Hall, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor will meet with clergy to announce a major new development in the Diocese of Westminster.
The principal change will be the gradual replacement of the five geographical areas with four key areas of responsibility, each one under the supervision of a different auxiliary bishop. These areas are as follows:
Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations (Bishop James O'Brien)
Clergy and Consecrated Life (Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue)
Education and Formation (Bishop George Stack)
Pastoral Affairs (Bishop Arthur Roche)
This change follows an extensive consultation with the clergy of every deanery undertaken personally by the Cardinal during his first year in office. He has also met with most of the Deans on an individual basis to listen to and understand the present challenges facing the Church in Westminster and to prepare it for the future.
About the development, the Cardinal said: 'I see my role as Archbishop as a focus of unity. Whilst the area system has served the diocese well, giving identity to groups of boroughs and deaneries, there has been a weakening of diocesan identity with the consequent loss of unity which is essential to any diocese. I am committed to affirming the unity of Westminster as a diocese and to serving the need for greater partnership between clergy, bishop and laity. I wish to see responsibility devolved wherever appropriate and recognise the consequent need for appraisal of those of us who administer the diocese and serve the people of God.'
The Cardinal wishes to address the challenges which continue to confront the diocese, which include the care and formation of the clergy and laity, the nurturing of vocations, the implications of the Charities Act, the implementation of procedures for the protection of children, and the furthering of Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations. The area structure, including the role of the area bishop who has to date been the point of contact for parishes, is now to be replaced with an enhanced and closer link between the Deans and clergy, as representatives of the local church, with the Cardinal as their bishop.
The auxiliary bishops, as members of the Archbishop's Council, will meet regularly with the Cardinal. The Council will be joined by the two new Vicars General, Fr Alan Hopes and Fr John Arnold. Fr Martin Hayes, parish priest of Wood Green, will work alongside the Council and will assist with the pastoral care of the clergy and their ongoing formation.
The Cardinal recognises that clear priority must be given to deepening the spiritual lives of Catholics in Westminster and to preparing them for their mission of sharing the Gospel with society in a more attractive and compelling way. He also sees evangelisation, ecumenism and interfaith relations as additional priorities for the Church in the years ahead.
'Personal conversion, the building and sustenance of faith communities, evangelisation and mission' said the Cardinal, 'are priorities for the Church in the diocese. I cannot emphasise enough the significance of collaboration between priests together with each other, and with lay people.
'This development is just a beginning. I will continue to consult and listen to the priests and lay people of the diocese as we move forward to the next phase of pastoral planning, urged on by Pope John Paul II in Novo Millennio Ineunte.'