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Former shrine director says he is not afraid as he is ordained bishop

Bishop Williams greets a well-wisher (Mazur/

The new Bishop of Brentwood was installed on Tuesday at Brentwood Cathedral in Essex.

Thirty-four years since the last episcopal ordination had taken place in the cathedral, Fr Alan Williams was ordained as the seventh Bishop of Brentwood in the presence of the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Bishops of England and Wales and priests and deacons from the Diocese of Brentwood, which covers the county of Essex and the five east London boroughs.

The Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who told Bishop Williams: “You know you are supported by the love and the prayers of all of us here today, and by so, so many more.”

During the Mass Bishop Williams said: “When I asked for advice from a brother bishop, he said: ‘Keep it short.’ So I will. I have been asked if I am afraid of this appointment – I am not. But one thing has always puzzled me – how can bishops wear two hats and get away with it? I had a fitting in front of a mirror recently by an Italian fitter which seemed fine but when it comes to getting them off, they explode. So do be patient with me.

“I expect the clergy have clubbed together to buy me L-plates – I need them. But I am very, very confident that the priests and people of the diocese will look after me as I hope to do for you, by the grace of God.”

To prepare for his episcopal ordination, Bishop Williams spent a week on retreat.

Speaking before his episcopal ordination, he said: “The surprise and shock of my appointment went very quickly and now, after a week of retreat spent entirely alone, I am feeling energised by the prospect of my ordination. And I couldn’t have a more exciting diocese: it is big, busy and diverse, a lovely mix of urban and countryside. I am looking forward to exploring it and meeting the priests and people in their everyday lives, in parishes and schools, so that I can listen and get a real sense of the situations they are in and how I can work with them.”

Bishop Williams was formerly the director of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.

In his homily Cardinal Nichols said: “This is, indeed, an awesome moment, for you, Alan, for me, for all of us. For we are about to ask of the Lord a gift that will change us all because it will make you a bishop, a father to this diocesan family, a brother to us bishops, a sign and voice of the truth of our faith in the public arenas of our society. How do we know that this is the right thing to do? How do we proceed with this ordination with confidence?”

To answer the question, Cardinal Nichols recalled an address by Francis to the Congregation of Bishops. “That day, he told us that a key moment in the ordination of a bishop… is when the question is put: ‘Do you have a mandate?’ This moment, he said, echoes the actions of Jesus who ‘called the 12 to himself and sent them out’ – mandated them – two by two.’ So, he told us, this morning’s question can also be expressed in these words: ‘Are you certain that this name, Alan Williams, has been pronounced by the Lord himself?… And the answer to this question is clear: ‘Yes, we are.’”

You can read the full text of Cardinal Nichols’s homily here and view photos of the Mass here.


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