Like many bloggers I have been following posts discussing the impending appointment of the next archbishop of Westminster with some interest. I can reveal with something like 100% certainty that, as a married layman, it wont be me. Indeed, despite my altitude, I cannot honestly claim to move in the kind of elevated circles giving access to such information. Early on I would read Damian Thompson's comments and gasp in wonderment: "Gosh! How does he know this? Has he bugged the Vatican? Has he got chums in Rome?" As a more seasoned reader now, having aged visibly in the wait, I am now of the view that, as ignorant and unconnected as I am, I could play the game just as well.
Of those mentioned in one place or another I can claim to have only seen two in the flesh, and outsiders at that. A year or two ago I attended a talk on Justice and Peace by Bishop Philip Tartaglia. I remember being very favourably impressed, not least because he stressed how pro-life issues should not be sidelined from the Peace and Justice remit, but seen as part and parcel of it. Perhaps because I remembered the late great Cardinal Winning, I found myself declaring "If only we had bishops like the Scottish bishops!"
I also had the privilege of seeing Archbishop Paul Gallagher on the sanctuary of the cathedral of Liverpool on the Good Friday just prior to his posting to Burundi. I have to admit that I looked at him somewhat in awe at the thought that I might be seeing a future martyr, his predecessor in that post having been murdered.
Two of the favourites, Archbishop Nichols and Archbishop Smith, I have seen and heard on television and radio and have found them easily likeable. When Cardinal Hume died I thought that the then Bishop Nichols was an obvious successor. On the other hand Archbishop Smith has a marvellous no-nonsense tone when dealing with the media which maybe just what is needed at present.
The latest bishop in the frame, Bishop Roche of Leeds, has evidently upset people by closing churches. I know nothing of the state of the church in that part of the country and so I would be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt on that score however, if he is really responsible for the chapel shown here, then I fear for Westminster Cathedral.
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