Pope Francis has today appointed Bishop Paul Mason as eighth Bishop of the Forces, which has been sede vacante (awaiting the appointment of a bishop) for the past three years.
The Catholic Bishopric of the Forces differs from any other diocese in that it is not aligned along geographical boundaries but encompasses anywhere in the world that United Kingdom military personnel are serving or deployed.
Chaplains of all three Armed Services serve on operations, where their pastoral care and Sacramental ministry bring hope and consolation in the most challenging of circumstances. A Principal Roman Catholic Chaplain is present in each of the three services.
“On the 25 of July, I will have been a priest of the Archdiocese of Southwark for 20 years. During that time I have been blessed with happiness in all of my assignments, none more so than the past four and a half years in Kent, half of that time as area bishop. Although sad to be leaving my adoptive diocese, the new role the Holy Father has asked me to take on as Bishop of the Forces is one I accept with much enthusiasm. Supporting the men and women of the British Armed Forces, and their families, is a very important apostolate in the life of the Church and one which I will be doing my best to pass muster. The network of chaplains across all three services do valiant work and I look forward to meeting them and working with them in the years ahead.”
Archbishop Peter Smith, Archbishop of Southwark, said:
“I was delighted to hear that after a gap of three years without a Bishop of the Forces, Bishop Paul Mason has been appointed to that office by Pope Francis. As the Archbishop of Southwark, however, I was sad to learn that the diocese will have to lose the valuable and very effective ministry of Bishop Paul. The men and women of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces will gain the blessing of a truly committed and dedicated bishop. Their gain is our loss, a loss that will be greatly felt in the diocese especially by the Catholics in Kent. I pray that Bishop Paul’s ministry in the Bishopric will be as fruitful as it has been in Southwark.”
Fr Michael Fava, Apostolic Administrator of the Bishopric of the Forces, said:
“It is with great joy and thanksgiving that the Bishopric of the Forces’ community welcomes the news of the appointment of our new Bishop Paul Mason, after a period of sede vacante of over three years. Catholic Forces’ personnel and their families around the world and their chaplains in all three Services look forward to the guidance and leadership that Bishop Paul will offer us and will do all we can to acquaint him quickly with our unique corner of the Church with its many joys and challenges. Together we look forward to furthering the church’s mission of new evangelisation as we strive to work in the cause of peace. As Apostolic Administrator of the Bishopric, I can assure Bishop Paul of the wholehearted support and prayers of the chaplains and faithful alike as we look to an exciting new era in the Forces’ Bishopric history.”