Wednesday 12 September 2018 was a historic day for the Bishopric of the Forces. During Mass in a packed Cathedral Church of St Michael and St George in Aldershot, the Rt Rev Paul Mason was installed as the eighth Bishop of the Forces. The Bishopric had been sede vacante (empty) for over 3 years following the appointment of the Rt Rev Richard Moth as Bishop of Arundel and Brighton in 2015, the longest period in over 60 years that it had been without a bishop.
Prior to the installation, Bishop Paul had been an Auxiliary Bishop within the Archdiocese of Southwark, and Episcopal Vicar for Kent. The Mass began with the Most Rev Peter Smith, Archbishop of Southwark, presenting Bishop Paul to the clergy and people of the Bishopric. The Apostolic Letter of appointment from Pope Francis was then read, following which Archbishop Peter invited Bishop Paul to be seated in the Cathedra (bishop’s chair), where he was presented with the Bishopric Crozier (pastoral staff) by his predecessor. Archbishop Peter was very clear that Southwark’s loss is the Forces’ gain!
Bishop Paul’s inspirational homily drew upon his experiences as a priest and bishop, in particular, his service as a hospital chaplain, as well as making reference to his hobbies of motorcycling and scuba diving. He explained that an illness can often prove to be a moment of reckoning, and can provide the opportunity to wake up out of one’s ‘comfort zone’, a problem which any of us can face, whether in work, in marriage, or in the spiritual life. Sometimes we need explosions in our life and to feel that burning need for change, and at such times Jesus comes not to bring peace, but division. Revealing that we have become complacent in our lives is not often welcome, but is necessary to enable us to recover our passion and zeal. The Mass concluded with a vote of thanks from Bishop Paul to all those present, which included Fr Michael Fava, who had acted as Bishopric Administrator during sede vacante, as well as the representatives of Kent Catholic Schools’ Partnership and Farnborough Hill Girls’ School Choir, who had sung so beautifully during the Mass.
The reception afterwards at the Princes Hall in Aldershot provided Bishop Paul with the opportunity to meet some of his new ‘flock’. Throughout the Bishopric of the Forces we look forward to getting to know him even better and pray that he may find happiness and fulfillment in his new role as our Bishop.
By Lieutenant Colonel P D Capanni RAMC