Saturday, 22 March 2014

Episcopal Appointments

It has been quite a week.

First we had the news that Fr Robert Byrne, founder of theOxford Oratory, has been raised to the episcopacy, and then that Bishop Malcolm McMahon has been appointed to Liverpool.

This is very good news.

First, Fr Byrne is an outstanding priest.  I know him a little as my mother lived in St Aloysius' parish from 1980 (long before it became an Oratory) until her death in 1997.

The transformation of the parish has been quite astonishing. It was moribund: it is now flourishing.  And in large part that is due to Fr Robert's quiet leadership.

I can personally attest that he is a very good confessor and spiritual advisor: indeed he has said things to me in private which have had a profound effect on my understanding and live with me many years later.

He was very solicitous when my mother was dying of cancer, and he or one of the other  priests of the Oratory visited her every day. Her Requiem Mass at the Oratory was magnificent and moving. It was a sung (chant) Requiem in the Traditional Rite, with a Church packed with friends and relations; many were not Catholic, many were lapsed - and all who mentioned it said how profoundly moving they had found the timeless Latin and Chant.

I am hugely heartened by this appointment and wish him every blessing.

Then we learned that Bishop McMahon is to be the next Archbishop of Liverpool. Again, this is a very promising appointment.  I have long bewailed the way in which many bishops in England and Wales seem to be hamstrung by the collectivity of the Conference, rather than exercising personal leadership and taking personal responsibility.  Bishop McMahon seems to me to be one of the honourable exceptions, standing firmly on his own two feet. 

I am, of course, delighted that he is not pathologically averse to the Traditional Mass. As a result, he has celebrated it himself on several occasions, and I hear that he takes liturgy seriously in the Ordinary Form, too, recognising the importance of reverence in worship.

I have some questions about his chairing of CES, during a time when it has failed to promote  a strong Catholic line; but he was also chair when the leadership changed, and it may be that he is starting to put the house in order there.  Let us hope and pray that is the case.

So I think that this has been a very good week in the life of the Church in this country, and would remind all my readers of the importance of prayerful support of these two men as they take up their new responsibilities.  

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