Welcome back to the Bishop’s Blog for this week¬
Many people seem to have appreciated last week’s Blog which focussed on supporting the Christians of the Holy Land.
So this week I post here two videos of our Diocesan Pilgrimage to Holy Land last April. It was a wonderful experience that marked our Year of Faith as a Diocese.
The ordination of a new bishop is invariably an occasion of great joy for a diocese, and the Catholic community of the diocese of Plymouth experienced such a joy when Bishop Mark O’Toole was ordained last Tuesday as the ninth bishop of that diocese.
I joined most of the hierarchy of England & Wales, with several bishops from elsewhere together with many priests, as concelebrants at the Mass of Ordination (a full set of photos are here).
The presence of the Apostolic Nuncio added its own special dimension to the occasion, and the homily was preached by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, under whom Bishop Mark served as secretary and latterly as diocesan seminary rector in the archdiocese of Westminster.
A significant moment in the ordination of a new bishop is the reading of the papal bull of appointment which underlines the bond and communion between the successor of Peter, Pope Francis, and the person appointed as bishop, in this case, Mgr Mark O’Toole.
That union, or communion, existing between the college of bishops and the Pope is a precious gift entrusted to the Church by Christ. It ensures the continuity and authentic nature of the apostolic roots of our faith from one generation to the next, a faith which ultimately derives from the Twelve Apostles and from Christ the Lord himself.
Like every bishop, Bishop O’Toole represents and symbolises the office of Apostle among the community of believers which is his diocese. His teaching will reflect in substance that faith which has come down to us in the Church for the last two millennia, and which will be in harmony with what his brother bishops teach in every part of the world.
During the ceremony of ordination the book of the Gospels is held over the head of the new bishop which again is deeply symbolic, signifying that a bishop’s life and teaching must be rooted in the life, death and resurrection of Christ as contained in the four gospels.
The oil of chrism is also poured on the head of the new bishop by the ordaining prelate, in this case his predecessor Bishop Christopher Budd. This ancient rite of oil, deriving from the high priesthood of ancient biblical times, is a sign of consecration and of the fullness of the priesthood conferred on a bishop. By his life and ministry the new bishop will realise and make present in the midst of his people Christ, the one High Priest of us all.
The presentation of the crozier, or staff, to the newly ordained bishop, adds a further rich biblical dimension to the meaning of his office. He is to shepherd his people with care and love, after the manner of Christ the Good Shepherd.
The ordination rite concludes with the new bishop taking possession of his cathedra or seat, a further symbol and indication of his authority as the teacher of the faith in his diocese.
There follows immediately afterwards a moment of joy when all the concelebrating bishops exchange the sign of peace and fraternity with the new bishop. He has, as it were, acquired a new family of episcopal brothers!
Bishop Mark will surely long remember this day when a packed Plymouth cathedral welcomed him as their ninth bishop. He has much to look forward to and has the prayers and good wishes of so many as he begins his Episcopal ministry, not least from his brother bishops in the episcopate. Ad multos annos, Bishop Mark!
My own travels took me literally to the other end of the country the following evening, Wednesday, to St. Cuthbert’s Church, Wigton, Cumbria, where I had the joy of conferring the sacrament of Confirmation on a group of young people.
By way of contrast to the splendid liturgy of a bishop’s ordination in Plymouth cathedral the previous day, this was a much more intimate occasion but no less joyful and grace-filled. The family, friends and parishioners gathered in the lovely church of St. Cuthbert to witness and be part of the Mass of Confirmation.
It was yet another example of the local Church at prayer; praying for the young people as they reached maturity in the faith through anointing with the Holy Spirit.
It was reassuring to recall that the same Holy Spirit invoked upon Bishop Mark O’Toole the previous day in Plymouth cathedral was also invoked upon the young people of Cumbria in their parish church as, like Bishop Mark, they entered upon a new phase of their faith journey. The happy atmosphere spilled over into the reception and refreshments afterwards. God’s Holy Spirit, I mused, is indeed at work at all times and in all places!
Until next week – may God bless you all,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster
(Photos of Plymouth Ordination – Marcin Mazur/CBCEW)