Pope Francis has appointed Canon Paul Swarbrick, a diocesan priest, as the new Bishop of Lancaster.
The bishop-elect was born and raised within the diocese before training for the priesthood at Ushaw College, Durham. He was ordained in his home town of Garstang in 1982 and has served in various parishes across the diocese.
“I must confess to being in a state of surprise and shock at my appointment, and to a feeling of great inadequacy when faced with what lies ahead,” the bishop-elect said.
“Since my ordination to the priesthood at Garstang in July 1982 this was never something I expected or feel prepared for. I have given my acceptance in a spirit of profound humility, deeply conscious of my unworthiness and sinfulness.
“It is a call to follow Jesus with greater trust and more generous love, ever mindful of what he has done for me and, ultimately, the fullness of Life he calls me to share.”
Outgoing Bishop Michael Campbell said he was delighted with his successor, saying: “A native son of the Diocese of Lancaster, Bishop-Elect Swarbrick comes to the office of bishop with considerable pastoral experience”. He noted that Bishop-Elect Swarbrick has served “in a number of parishes here in the diocese” and in Zambia.
“I know he will use these gifts to the great advantage of the priests and people of Lancaster, who will be well served by their new bishop,” Bishop Campbell said.
The date of the new bishop’s installation has yet to be set.
The diocese covers most of Lancashire and all of Cumbria up to the Scottish border. A historic Catholic heartland, it includes 82 parishes and 84 schools.
Faithful could take church closure fight to the Vatican
Parishioners of a church in Conwy, north Wales, are seeking to take their fight against its closure to the Vatican.
The last Mass at 100-year-old St Michael’s was celebrated on Sunday. Bishop Peter Brignall of Wrexham announced its closure just before Christmas.
Parishioners have appealed to the bishop and, if that fails, may take the case to the Congregation for Clergy and ultimately the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest court.
Spokeswoman Anne McCaffrey told the BBC that parishioners were heartbroken. She said that bringing the appeal to the Vatican would require hiring a senior canon lawyer. “There are only 14 of these qualified to present an appeal at this level, and as you can imagine none of this is easy, nor is it cheap,” she said.
“To close a church building there needs to be grave cause, a technical term in church law. St Michael’s is structurally sound, financially viable with a strong community.”
Parishioners gathered for a candlelit vigil outside the church on Sunday night. It is one of 20 that Bishop Brignall has said will have to close because of a shortage of priests.