Dear Friends in Christ,
Welcome (back) to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!
That sage of the Old Testament, Qoheleth, in a famous passage remarked that “for everything there is a time and a season” (Qoh.3:1-9), and his words came to mind on Monday as the name of the next Bishop of Lancaster, Canon Paul Swarbrick, was announced in Rome and at the same time here in Lancaster.
At the same time, the Holy Father Pope Francis accepted my resignation as the sixth Bishop of Lancaster, and hence the imminence of my retirement. For the family of the Diocese, therefore, both clergy and people, there is now set in motion a time of change and transition.
The prospect of change can be unsettling for some, while for others it presents new opportunities and a different way of doing things. Pray for those who are asked to manage this for the Diocese and, of course, for the Bishop-Elect as he prepares himself in prayer and begins to learn about the ministry and issues facing him in the Diocese.
The appointment of a new bishop to be father of a diocese, which is indeed a very human process, is nevertheless an ongoing sign of Christ’s care for His people, and of His promise made good that he would remain with His Church as long as time lasts.
It will be incumbent on the new bishop, as on every bishop, to ensure that Christ’s faithful always have, in spite of many human constraints, access to the sacraments, have the Word of God preached to them, and that the Catholic faith is handed on in its integrity. These are the tasks I have myself endeavoured to carry out as well as possible in my ten years of episcopal ministry.
The presence and ministry of the bishop serves to remind his people of their living link with the wider and universal Church, for the bishop forms part of the world-wide college of bishops, united under Pope Francis, their Head, and the successor of Peter.
While the person of the bishop may change, the office and ministry does not. By his episcopal ordination a new bishop enters into the chain of apostolic succession, and is a living guarantee of that bond with Christ and the original Twelve Apostles which spans two-thousand years of history and the entirety of the world and every culture.
All that Christ taught and did, has come to us from and with the authority of those first apostles, and the bishop’s responsibility is to continue to safeguard what we technically call “the deposit of faith” for the flock entrusted to him.
So the Bishop-Elect Mgr Paul Swarbrick as he assumes his office will stand in continuity with that long and venerable apostolic tradition and burden of office which he now inherits. As an ambassador for Christ he will speak words of faith – which are both affirming and challenging – to the people Christ entrusts to him in the Diocese of Lancaster, and they in turn will receive him in a spirit of faith.
Mgr Paul will bring his own personal gifts to his role as chief shepherd, and the sacramental grace of Christ will enhance those natural gifts so as to face the very real challenges of such an office in pastoral charge of this part of the Church of Christ – priests and people, deacons and religious communities – old and new.
Shortly, I will step down as Bishop of Lancaster but will confidently hand on my ‘cathedra’, my seat and the symbol of my teaching office, to my successor who will ensure that Christ the Teacher will continue to preside over and instruct in love the hearts of the faithful people of our Local Church of Lancaster.
With my prayers and best wishes to each of you who read this Blog! As we make our Lenten journey and beyond, may we continue to seek holiness above all, wherever we are, whoever we are and whatever we do!
As ever in Christ,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Apostolic Administrator – Diocese of Lancaster