Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop of Arundel and Brighton.
Bishop Kieran Conry tendered his resignation to the pontiff after admitting to being “unfaithful to (his) promises as a Catholic priest”. He also apologised for the “shame that I have brought on the diocese and the Church”.
Over the weekend letters written by Archbishop Peter Smith, who leads the Archdiocese of Southwark, and Cardinal Emeritus Cormac Murphy O’Connor were read out during mass services in Arundel and Brighton.
Archbishop Smith wrote: “The announcement last weekend that Bishop Kieran had offered his resignation to the Holy Father came as a great shock and was very distressing. Working with him in the Bishops’ Conference since 2001, and more recently as a Bishop of the Province of Southwark, I am well aware of all his dedicated work in the Diocese and nationally in his work as Chairman of the Department of Evangelisation and Catechesis.”
He continued: “My heart goes out to you at this difficult time, and I just wanted to write and let you know that I have offered Mass for you and all those hurt or distressed by Bishop Kieran’s actions. I will be keeping you and all those involved in my prayers in the coming weeks and months as you continue your preparations to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the Diocese next year.
“The words of Pope Francis in his letter to the Church, Evangelii Gaudium, struck me as particularly appropriate at this difficult time: ‘I invite all Christians everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask you to do this unfailingly each day.’”
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor wrote that “thoughts and prayers” were with the people of the diocese.
“The resignation of Bishop Kieran and the events accompanying it have been a great shock and sadness to us all,” he said.
“As it happens, I know Bishop Kieran had intended a letter about the Church to be read out to you today. In it he says: ‘The Church is what joins us to Christ and builds and supports that relationship. It is also what binds us to one another. It is where we find healing and forgiveness. It is where we find support and encouragement.’ We all need that healing and forgiveness as Bishop Kieran does at this time. We are all dependent upon one another for prayer, support and encouragement in times of trouble and failure. I know that you will pray for Bishop Kieran as he seeks God’s guidance for the time ahead, and for all those who have been hurt by these events.”
He continued: “The Diocese of Arundel and Brighton is a great diocese and will continue to flourish and develop with the renewal that has already begun in preparation for the Golden Jubilee. Know that you are and will always be in my prayers.”