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Pope Francis appoints new English bishop

Mgr O'Toole with seminarians from Westminster diocese (Catholic Westminster)

Pope Francis has appointed Mgr Mark O’Toole as the new Bishop of Plymouth.

He will succeed Bishop Christopher Budd, who has served the diocese in the south of England since 1986.

The bishop-elect served as personal secretary to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and then, from 2008, as rector of Allen Hall, the seminary of the Archdiocese of Westminster.

Mgr O’Toole said: “I am deeply humbled that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has appointed me the new Bishop of Plymouth. Recognising that I am a sinner who experiences the love and mercy of the Lord Jesus, I embrace with my whole self this deeper call to service in His Church. I know that the example and witness of Pope Francis will continue to inspire and shape my ministry as Shepherd to all in the Diocese, especially to serve the poor, the weak, and those who feel alienated from God, as I work alongside fellow Christians.

“This part of the country is known for its outstanding natural beauty, and this is mirrored in the gracious welcome shown to the newcomer by its people. I look forward very much to putting down firm roots in the Diocese and making my home in Plymouth. I know I can count on the prayer, co-operation and support of the people, the religious and especially the priests of the Diocese who are renowned for their quiet heroism, fidelity and dedication. You will all show me what it means to be your bishop. I am grateful, too, that Bishop Christopher will be nearby so that I can draw on his wisdom and experience.

“My own priestly heart has been formed in the Diocese of Westminster and I have been richly blessed by the faith and witness of many – bishops, priests, seminarians, religious, and lay men and women. I look especially to the outstanding leadership of my three Archbishops – Cardinal Basil Hume OSB, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and Archbishop Vincent Nichols. Each of them has taught me so much. I am deeply grateful for the friendship and love of so many in the Diocese and I ask their continued prayer. I will miss especially everyone at Allen Hall. I have seen how essential the vocation of the priest is for our Church and our society. I hope I can continue to make its promotion a priority in this new mission.

“I entrust the whole Diocese of Plymouth, and myself, into the loving care of Mary, our Mother, as we set out on this journey together, seeking also the intercession of St Boniface and our diocesan saints, especially St Cuthbert Mayne.”

Bishop Budd said: “I am delighted to welcome Mgr Mark O’Toole as my successor as Catholic Bishop of Plymouth and I am grateful to Pope Francis for sending him to us. He is coming to a lovely community of Priests, deacons and Religious and people of God who make up the Diocese. I know he will receive a warm and loving welcome. May the Lord bless his Ministry among us.”

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, said: “‘It is in giving that we receive.’ These words come to mind as we, in the Diocese of Westminster, welcome the news that Mgr Mark O’Toole is to be the next Bishop of Plymouth in succession to Bishop Christopher Budd.

“Mgr Mark has fulfilled many roles in our Diocese, best known as Rector of our Seminary, Allen Hall, and as Secretary to Cardinal Cormac for six years. He is a dedicated, gifted and experienced priest who will become an excellent Bishop of Plymouth and a valued member of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

“We shall miss him but always hold him in our prayers especially as he prepares to take up this new mission, given by the Lord. He will go to Plymouth fully supported by the love and esteem of everyone in this Diocese.”

Pope Pius IX established the Diocese of Plymouth in 1850. The new bishop will be the ninth in the diocese’s history.

The diocese covers the counties of Cornwall, Devon, and Dorset. The episcopal see is the Cathedral Church of St Mary and St Boniface in Plymouth.

Bishop Budd reached the retirement age of 75 on May 27 2012. In an interview with the Tablet this week he said he wondered why it was taking so long to appoint his successor.

“I don’t think things are happening very quickly, he said. “People are keen to know who is their new bishop.”

Today marks the second English episcopal appointment by Pope Francis. The first was Bishop Alan Hopes of East Anglia in June.