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Pope chooses abbot as Bishop of Aberdeen

Bishop-elect Hugh Gilbert has been abbot at Pluscarden for 19 years (Photo: Paul McSherry)

Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Benedictine Abbot Hugh Gilbert as Bishop of Aberdeen.

Bishop-elect Gilbert, 59, has been abbot of Pluscarden Abbey, in Moray, the Diocese of Aberdeen, for 19 years. He was born in Hampshire but joined the monastery in his early 20s. He will succeed Bishop Peter Moran, who has retired on age and health grounds.

In a statement the bishop-elect said he intended to “give myself wholeheartedly, like my predecessors, to the lay people, religious and priests and deacons of this beautiful diocese”.

He said: “I have much to learn, and it will not be easy to leave my monastery after 37 years. But I do so knowing that I am not going among strangers.

“I commend myself to the kind hearts and prayers of all whom I am called to serve. Together in Christ may we shine with the light of his Resurrection.”

Bishop Moran who, at 76, is one year past the standard retirement age of a bishop, said that during Abbot Gilbert’s time at Pluscarden the abbey had been “the serene spiritual heart of this diocese”.

He said: “I am confident that his spiritual leadership as bishop will bring many graces to the members of the diocese, and to the wider community, in the years to come.”

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, president of the Scottish bishops’ conference, praised the bishop-elect’s writings, which, he said, had “inspired many throughout Scotland and indeed in other parts of the world”.

His appointment was also welcomed by blogger Fr Tim Finigan, who said he was a “wise, holy man who has governed his Abbey with prudence and kindness”.

In 2008 Bishop-elect Gilbert was rumoured to be a “dark horse” candidate to succeed Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor as Archbishop of Westminster.

In an interview with the Spectator, he described how the Church should respond to secularism, saying: “We need to go back to the patrician period, the period of the fathers of the Church, to see how they dealt with the culture. Our culture is in many ways antipathetic if you like to the work of the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit is still the Holy Spirit and can still, well, raise up children to Abraham out of the stones.”

In an email, he added: “I like the idea that beauty and holiness are the apologia for Christianity. The beauty of Christianity needs to shine out more; this is where the celebration of the liturgy becomes central. And the goodness of Christianity, ie the holiness of self-giving love (the witness of charity) and of prayer, needs to be sustained and developed.

“And this too, certainly: that the one thing Christianity has to offer is Easter. Simply: Christ is risen!”

Bishop-elect Gilbert has written two books, Unfolding the Mystery, about the course of the liturgical year, and Living the Mystery.

His ordination as bishop will take place in St Mary’s Cathedral in Aberdeen on August 15.