New Roman Catholic Primate for England

David Virtue DVirtue236 at AOL.COM
Wed Feb 16 00:40:23 EST 2000

New Roman Catholic Primate for England

VATICAN CITY, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Pope John Paul on Tuesday appointed
Bishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, widely regarded as a reformer, to be the
new head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.

Murphy-O'Connor, 67, currently bishop of Arundel and Brighton, succeeds
Cardinal Basil Hume, who died last year, and assumes the title of
archbishop of Westminster.

His appointment to the number one position of the Catholic Church in
England and Wales had been widely expected.

The archbishop of Westminster is traditionally a cardinal and the Pope is
expected to elevate Murphy-O'Connor to the elite rank when he next holds a
consistory, expected some time this year. A consistory is the forum at
which the Pontiff selects new cardinals, the so-called ``princes of the

The Polish Pope has mostly appointed conservative clergymen into the
Church's top positions in countries around the world during his 21-year
pontificate. But Murphy-O'Connor has a reputation as a radical reformer.

English Catholics were reported to have become impatient over the length
of time the Pope was taking over replacing their Catholic leader. Hume
died eight months ago.

Murphy-O'Connor was best known abroad for his work as co-chairman of the
Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, which handles discussions
with the Anglicans.

Improved relations between the Vatican and the Anglican Church has been
one of the Pope's ecumenical goals since he became leader of the world's
one billion Catholics.

One other contender for the job of archbishop of Westminster was Bishop
Vincent Nichols, who had run the Westminster diocese since Hume's

The Pope appointed Nichols, 54, to be the new archbishop of Birmingham.

Murphy-O'Connor was ordained a priest in 1956 after studying philosophy
and theology in Rome.

He was parish priest at Southampton's church of the Immaculate Conception
from 1969 to 1971 before going on to become rector of the English College
in Rome for the following six years. He became bishop of Arundel and
Brighton in 1977.


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