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Pope Francis is like a world-class football manager, says bishop

Pope Francis receiving a football from Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (CNS)

Pope Francis is like a world-class football manager and his bishops are a team called by God, Bishop John Arnold of Salford said at his installation last week.

The new bishop was speaking about the Holy Father at his Mass last Monday in Salford Cathedral.

He told the congregation: “I am loving this pontificate of Pope Francis! Bit ironic really – because Pope Francis makes me feel really uncomfortable. But I am very grateful to him for that, because he keeps making those demands on me, that say ‘Really think what you’re doing, John! Is that right? Is that the right way to do it? Are those the right priorities?’ He’s got so much to say to us all. But let’s see what he says to us for our bishops.”

Bishop Arnold, who was appointed in September, said that “Pope Francis has a lot to say to priests.”

“He’s asking the priests to be ministers in service of the people. Not just those who readily come to faith, but those on the fringes of the communities that are committed to our pastoral care,” he added.

Bishop Arnold, who was born in Sheffield and studied law at Trinity College, Oxford, before entering the seminary, told worshippers: “Now when Pope Francis speaks in that way to the bishops and to the priests, I don’t think he’s being really critical of us. I think there’s a different image here. To put it in a local context, I think it’s rather like the manager of a world class football team, who’s with his team in the changing rooms before a very big match, who’s saying ‘You’re selected for the team. I need you. But you’ve got to go out there and perform to your best if we’re going to win the match today.’ I think that Pope Francis is saying that to the bishops and the priests: you’ve been selected, called by God, ordained to ministry, and now you must be at your best for the people in your pastoral care.”

At the event Bishop Arnold handed out small prayer cards, in which he asked parishioners to pray for him, with the phrase: “Stay with us, Lord, on our journey.”