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Bishopric News


Bishop Paul and the Roman Catholic Military Chaplains visit Rome  7th - 12th July 2024

Once every year Bishop Paul gathers his Roman Catholic military chaplains for a period of conference, continuing professional development, prayer and reflection.  Following on from visits to the seminary at Wonersh on 2021; the English College, Valladolid in 2022; and to the Scots College in Salamanca last year, it was the turn of the Pontifico Collegio Irlandese in Rome to host Bishop Paul, the Vicar General, 18 military chaplains, and the Pastoral Assistants from the RN, Army and RAF.

Armed Forces Retreat to Douai Abbey - 25th to 28th June 2024

A retreat took place at Douai Abbey in Berkshire 25 – 28 June 2025 for a broad cross section of personnel from the Armed Forces and Civil Service within the MOD. It was led by Padre Neil Galloway from RAF Digby and Padre Ashley Mitchell from RAF Halton.


The theme was the ‘Journey’. A number of spiritual exercises were undertaken by the retreatants as well as 2 meditative walks in the beautiful Berkshire countryside which surrounds the Abbey.  All were able to reflect upon their spiritual lives as a journey towards God.


As expected the hospitality extended by the monks of Douai was outstanding and the weather wonderful.  All who attended appreciated the time and the space to simply ‘Be’ and ‘Reflect’ on their sense of calling and vocation as Christians in a military context.  


Two further opportunities exist this year for Armed Forces personnel and MOD Civil Servants to attend an Armed Forces Retreat: at Worth Abbey 14 to 17 Oct and at Ampleforth Abbey 11 to 14 Nov.  For further information, or to express your interest, please contact


Commemoration of the 80th Anniversary of the Liberation of Rome

Bishop Paul Mason led a service of thanksgiving to mark the eightieth anniversary of the Liberation of Rome by Allied forces. The apostolic nuncio Archbishop Miguel Maury Buendía delivered a message to the congregation from Pope Francis. Descentas of soldiers that served in the 1944-5 Italian campaign attended the service.

64th International Military Pilgrimage to Lourdes


With a theme of Let Us Go In Procession, the 64th International Military Pilgrimage (IMP) to Lourdes took place from 23 to 27 May.  A UK contingent of 350 personnel from across the Whole Force, under the leadership of The Right Reverand Paul Mason, Roman Catholic Bishop of the Armed Forces, and the individual Service Principal Roman Catholic Chaplains, gathered with around 15,000 service personnel from more than 40 nations for a long weekend of pilgrimage, prayer and fellowship.


Lourdes has been a place of pilgrimage since 1858 when a young peasant girl called Bernadette Soubirous witnessed several apparitions of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ.  Mary gave Bernadette a message of prayer, repentance, and pilgrimage.  3.5 million pilgrims come each year to be open to experience an encounter with themselves, with others, and with God.


The IMP grew out of a desire for Franco-German reconciliation following World War II.  In 1958 the pilgrimage was extended to the Armed Forces of other nations to promote reconciliation and peace.  The cornerstones of the IMP are fraternity, peace and hope.  Through a series of national and international events and services, as well as time spent in social and sporting activities, the IMP pilgrim can't fail but be moved by this place of comradeship, love, and hope. 


The dates for the 65th IMP in 2025 are 15th to 19th May. Should you wish to attend or if you want further information please contact your chaplain.

Photos credit: Flt Lt Luke Bluer, official IMP photographer for the UK Contingent

Armed Forces Retreat to St Mary's Monastery, Kinnoull

The first Bishopric retreat of 2024 for Armed Forces personnel from across the Whole Force took place at St Mary's Monastery, Kinnoull, Perthshire between 29 April and 2 May.  The retreats, organised for many years on behalf of the Bishopric by the Royal Air Force Pastoral Advisory Group (PAG), allow Armed Forces personnel to take a step away from their working environments and find space and time to pray and re-fresh.  


This was the first ever retreat we have organised in Scotland and members of the Royal Navy, Army, RAF, and MOD Civil Servants were able to enjoy the wonderful hospitality, comfortable accommodation,  and location of the Redemptorist Community at Kinnoull.  We were blessed to have Fr Jim Walls, a priest of the Dunkeld Diocese, lead us for the retreat.  During his led sessions participants were invited to consider the part that prayer, contemplation, lectio divina, silence and time spent in nature play in building up a personal resilience.


All participants returned to their working environments renewed in the Spirit.  There are still places available at the 3 other retreats organised for the Armed Forces this year, at Douai Abbey (25-28 June), Worth Abbey (14-17 Oct) and at Ampleforth Abbey (11-14 Nov).  For further information please contact Jem Wynne,

Annual Mass for the RAF - Military Cathedral, Aldershot - 21 April 2024

Personnel and family members from the Royal Air Force Roman Catholic community joined with Bishop Paul, Padre Dave Skillen (the RAF Principal Roman Catholic Chaplain), and RAF Chaplain, Padre Neil Galloway for the annual Mass for the RAF at the military Cathedral Church of St Michael & St George.  This years' Mass took place on Good Shepherd Sunday.  


These Masses have been taking place for several years now and allow for the RAF community to gather in worship at their Cathedral and to pray for members of the RAF, past and present.


Padre Neil Galloway preached at the Mass and invited those present, and those joining remotely, to consider their God-given gifts and talents and whether they had the opportunity or capacity to serve others as Christ.


Following the Mass there was the opportunity for fellowship over refreshments.  The next Mass for the RAF takes place at St Clement Danes, the Central Church of the RAF, in London at 2pm on Thursday 10th October.  All are very welcome to attend. 

Annual Masses for the RAF Roman Catholic Community
Join the Bishop of the Forces, the RAF Principal Roman Catholic Chaplain
and the RAF Whole Force RC 
Community to gather together in celebration.

There will once again be an opportunity for the RAF Roman Catholic Community, and anyone else who would like to take part, to gather to worship, along with Bishop Paul, and the RAF RC Chaplains, at one of our annual Masses.

Thursday 10th October 2pm
The Central Church of the RAF,
St Clement Danes,
The Strand, London

For further information please contact:

Refreshments will be served after Mass.  All are most welcome.

Bishopric of the Forces - Retreat Series 2024

Once again, the Bishopric of the Forces is happy to offer a retreat opportunity for personnel from across the Whole Force. This year there are 4 separate retreats organised:

Worth Abbey, West Sussex - 14 to 17 Oct

Ampleforth Abbey, Nth Yorkshire - 11 to 14 Nov


The Defence Instruction and Notices (DIN) 2023DIN01-128 provides more information and an application form.  Please contact the RAF Pastoral administrative Assistant,, for further information.

Exercise St George Cross

Padre Dave Skillen, Principal Roman Catholic Chaplain for the RAF took part in a Force Development activity, Exercise ST GEORGE CROSS in Malta between 23 – 27 February, 2024.  He was with a group of 13 service personnel from RAF Northolt who travelled to Malta to study the significant RAF involvement in the defence of Malta during World War II.  The resilience shown by the people of Malta at this time resulted in the award of the George Cross to the Island.

During the group’s visit to the Fort Rinella site Padre Skillen led a Field Service to commemorate and honour those who fought and died in the conflict.  He said, ‘It is a great privilege to have been able to lead this service to remember those who fought so gallantly, and also to pray for a just peace in all the current conflicts around the world.’

While in Malta, Padre Skillen took the opportunity of running in the Malta Half Marathon which was taking place around the streets of Valetta the capital, recording a personal best time in the process.  Well done Padre Skillen!

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Annual Mass and dinner for the
Royal Air Force Roman Catholic Community

Thursday 12 October saw 2 major occasions in the Royal Air Force Roman Catholic Community calendar take place in London.  The first was the annual Mass for the RAF which took place in the magnificent surroundings of the Central Church of The Royal Air Force, St Clement Danes.  This was the third occasion that this Mass has taken place, the annual Masses being the initiative of Rev (Sqn Ldr) Dave Skillen, the RAF Principal Roman Catholic Chaplain (RAF PRCC).  

The Masses provide an opportunity for Catholics who serve the RAF from across the Whole Force, their loved ones, and, indeed, anyone who would like to join in fellowship, to gather, with the Bishop of the Forces, in prayer, worship and praise of God our Father.  The Mass was concelebrated by a former RAF PRCC, Monsignor John Daly, as well as the PRCC of the Royal Navy and the Army, and other military RC chaplains. RAF Chaplains, Deacons Dave Skillen, and Anthony Curran, assisted Bishop Paul at Mass.

This years' Mass was made more special by the receipt into the Church and the confirmation of AS1 (T) Martin Carre, an aircraft technician based at RAF Odiham.  Once again, the RAF Chaplain-in-Chief, The Venerable Dr (Air Vice-Marshal) Giles Legood, was able to join us in worship.

Following Mass, the RAF PRCC hosted his annual dinner at the RAF Club for invited guests.  The principal guest was Archbishop Miguel Maury Buendia, the Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain.  During the dinner, guests listened to vignettes which highlighted the work carried out within the RAF to support serving Catholics and their families and to further the Catholic mission.

Dr James Hagerty KSG FRHistS, renowned military historian with a special interest in military chaplaincy, gave an informative and entertaining after-dinner talk on Early Catholic Military Chaplaincy Within The RAF.

The next Mass for the RAF takes place at 1100 on Sunday 21 April 2024 at the military Cathedral of St Michael and St George, Aldershot.  And the next annual Mass for the RAF at St Clement Danes is at 1400 on Thu 10 October 2024.  All are very welcome to attend.

Fr Robert Matau RN receives 3*Commendation

Fr Conroy, VAdm Connell, Fr Matau, VAdm Burns (Fleet Commander), Bishop Mason


Fr Conroy, Fr Matau, Bishop Mason

Fr. Robert Matau, Chaplain Royal Navy has been awarded a Royal Navy Commendation (3*) for consistently delivering levels of devotion to duty and support to frontline people above that expected, across an extraordinary period challenged by high operational outputs and beset with Covid-19 restrictions.

The Presentation Ceremony was held at Admiralty House in HM Naval Base Portsmouth on 5th June 2023 and the Commendation was presented to Fr. Robert Matau by The Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral Martin Connell CBE.

Process to make famous WW1 chaplain a saint opens in Mullingar

Fr Ian Stevenson CF(RC), Principal Roman Catholic Chaplain (Army), represented Bishop Paul Mason at the opening session of the canonisation cause of World War 1 Jesuit chaplain Fr Willie Doyle, which took place in Mullingar, Ireland, on 20th November 2022.

The canonisation cause was opened by Bishop Tom Deenihan of the Diocese of Meath in the presence of nine other bishops and dozens of priests. A congregation of several hundred people attended the event, including serving and retired members of the defence forces and the head chaplains of both the Irish and British armies. The official ceremony involved a report on the life of Fr Doyle and a formal petition to open the cause, following which Bishop Deenihan read his official edict signifying the opening of the process.

Commenting on the opening of the Cause, the President of the The Father Willie Doyle Association, Patrick Kenny, said: “The opening of Fr Willie’s cause has been greeted by many with great enthusiasm. Since the news of his canonisation process was first announced we have had requests for material about Fr Willie from all around Ireland and indeed from many other countries, including Europe and North and South America. Many people, from all around the world, have written to us to ask for prayers for their healing through Fr Willie’s intercession. It is evident that there is a strong affection for Fr Willie out there, and it is notable that young people are especially impressed with the witness of his life. We look forward to introducing more people to Fr Willie’s powerful story in the months and years ahead, and we encourage people to come forward and help us in whatever way they can in this exciting project”.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Diocesan Postulator Fr John Hogan said: “We believe the life and death of Fr Doyle have immense importance for the Church. He is a good and holy model of the priestly life. He is a sign of hope for those suffering with mental health issues due his own experience and recovery from a psychological breakdown in his youth. His desire to offer his life, penances and even his death as a reparation for the sins of priests can resonate with the Church in these times. His love and service of German soldiers offers the Church an example of universal charity. Fr Willie can be seen as a servant of peace and reconciliation and a model of true ecumenism. In many ways his life and witness are more relevant to us now than they were 100 years ago”.

The Father Willie Doyle Association have published a newly approved prayer for Fr Willie’s canonisation.

The homepage of the Association and a full archive of resources and material on Fr Willie Doyle can be found on the official website for the cause:

Willie Doyle was born in Dalkey, County Dublin in 1873, and entered the Jesuits in Rahan, Tullabeg, Co. Offaly in the Diocese of Meath in 1891. He served as chaplain in the 16th Irish Division of the British Army. He is now formally known as the Servant of God, Fr Willie Doyle SJ.

The Father Willie Doyle Association is a lay initiative working towards the canonisation of Fr Willie Doyle, with the approval of the Irish Jesuit Province and of the Diocese of Meath, where it has the status of a Private Association of the Faithful. The Association is the official Actor for the cause. The Actor for a cause is the one who formally petitions a bishop to open the cause and formally promotes and funds the process. It is the only Irish lay association established to promote a canonisation cause.

The canonisation process can take many years. The first step is a diocesan investigation into the life and virtues of the Servant of God. If the process is approved by the diocesan tribunals, it will proceed to the Roman phase where a panel of expert theologians will examine Fr Willie’s life and virtues. If Fr Willie is found to have lived a life of heroic virtue, he will then be granted the title Venerable, and can proceed to beatification and canonisation if the Vatican approves miracles following prayers through his intercession. The last time a canonisation process was opened in Ireland was for the founder of the Legion of Mary, Frank Duff, in 1996.

'We will Remember them'

There was a good turn out of uniformed personnel from across the Armed Services at this year's Solemn Requiem Mass for the Fallen in Westminster Cathedral on Remembrance Sunday. The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster was the Principal Celebrant and Fr Phil Carroll, Royal Navy, gave the homily. After the Mass, attendees had an opportunity to meet up over a cup of coffee in the church hall.


A small group from the Royal Navy spent a cultural weekend in London staying overnight at St Mary's Monastery, Clapham, home of The Redemptorists London Province. The group were treated to wonderful hospitality from their hosts as well as a guided tour of Westminster Abbey, and visits to Westminster Cathedral and Tyburn Convent. 

Picture: The group outside St Mary's Monastery with Fr Richard Reid (CSsR), Provincial, Fr David Conroy KHC RN, PRCC(N), and Fr Phil Carroll RN, in the centre of the photograph

Navy Bish earns Green Beret

Fr Philip Carroll, Royal Navy, has earned his green beret after completing the gruelling Royal Marine Commando course at CTC RM Lympstone. The last time this was achieved by a Royal Navy Catholic Chaplain was 25 years ago! Fr Phil joined the Royal Navy just over a year ago in September 2021 and passed out of BRNC in December. Assigned to CTCRM Lympstone in January he completed the Commando course in mid October. 

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 Fr Phil leaps his way through the course

Fr Phil receives his Green Beret

Fr Philip Carroll Royal Navy

Passing out Parade at Lympstone

Camino 22

Twenty Seven Pilgrims from the Bishopric participated in a walking Pilgrimage from Ourense to Santiago De Compostela (Spain) over the period 15 to 22 Sep 22, along part of the Camino de Santiago, or “The Way”, which takes the form of one of dozens of ancient pilgrimage routes to Santiago De Compostela.  True to its aim, the Pilgrimage helped to develop individual spirituality, faith, Catholic ethos and values, as well as mental and physical resilience, and community cohesion within the Tri-Service RC community. All the participants enjoyed this most memorable experience, which was subsidised by the Service Catholic Trusts.

Fr Bernard Funnell (1933-2022)

Bernard Anscar Funnell was born on 13 July 1933. Following National Service, mainly in Germany, he studied for the priesthood at the English College in Lisbon (founded in 1624 and closed in 1973). During his time there the President of the College was another Leeds priest, Mgr. James Sullivan (1903-1999). Fr Bernard was ordained in Lisbon on 8 June 1963.


After 2 years away from Lourdes because of the Coronavirus pandemic, the International Military Pilgrimage resumed this year and those attending soon got back into the swing of the Lourdes routine, marching through the streets to the various events led by Bishop Paul Mason, Bishop of the Forces, and the Band and Bugles of The Rifles under the direction of its Bandmaster WO1 Troy Taylor-Smith. There were around 230 in the UK contingent overall with serving personnel from all 3 Services plus accompanying veterans and civilians. The pilgrimage was enhanced by some good weather with temperatures up to 28 degrees Centigrade. 

The photographs below are just a selection taken by the UK  official photographer George Winter. 

IMP 2022