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Bishop of Leeds lowers Confirmation age in an attempt to increase numbers

Bishop Marcus Stock said he was concerned about the paucity of confirmed Catholics

The Bishop of Leeds has announced that his diocese will be lowering the age at which baptised Catholics will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.

In a pastoral letter released on Sunday, Bishop Marcus Stock said young people would now be invited to make their Confirmation in their last year of primary school when they are 11, as opposed to 14.

The bishop said that it was “a cause for concern” that a large proportion of those who are baptised do not make their Confirmation. He said: “In the Diocese of Leeds a large proportion of those who are baptised into the Catholic Church (68 per cent) and make their first Holy Communion (58 per cent) do not receive also the Sacrament of Confirmation. This means that we are failing, as a diocesan family, to complete the initiation into the Catholic Faith of a considerable number of our children and young people. Such a failure deprives many of our young people of the objective grace of the Sacrament of Confirmation; the spiritual gift which provides the vital help they need in their young and adult lives.”

He continued: “I have decided therefore to change the age at which the Sacrament of Confirmation is conferred from the age of 14 to 11; that is, from school year nine to year six, the last year of primary education. This, I believe, will enable us to focus on and provide a more integral preparation and celebration of the sacraments of initiation within the primary years of education.

“In the secondary years of education, the focus will be on how those who are joined to Christ in His Church live out their faith and give witness to their faith through vocation and service in the world around them.”

In his letter the bishop also laid out his vision for the education of Catholic children and the development of their faith. He said: “In the primary years of education we should try to help our children learn to know the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to listen to and speak to Him in prayer, and to develop a personal loving relationship with Him.

“In the secondary years of education, and in the higher education we offer through our sixth- form provision and through Leeds Trinity University, we should try to: deepen the faith and relationship of our young people with Our Lord Jesus Christ; integrate our young people into the life of the local and universal Church; form our young people in the Christian virtues which will build character and inspire the leaders among them; and, help our young people to grow in discipleship and learn how to put their faith into action through serving Christ in others, in the Church, and in the world around them.”

Bishop Marcus Stock was former secretary to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference for England and Wales. He became the Bishop of Leeds in September 2014.