New Bishop Appointed to Hallam, England

Leaves Post as Bishop of Gibraltar to Return to UK

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Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Ralph Heskett CSSR as the new bishop of Hallam.

Bishop Heskett had until now served as bishop of Gibraltar, having been appointed to the position by Benedict XVI in 2010. He succeeds Bishop John Rawsthorne who retired this year.

“I came to Gibraltar to be bishop in a spirit of obedience to Pope Benedict,” Bishop Heskett said, “and now, I must leave in a spirit of obedience to Pope Francis to take up the new mission he has entrusted to me.”

“To be asked to pastor and shepherd of two different diocesan families is a privilege I do not deserve and a responsibility I feel inadequate to undertake. This will be a great personal challenge for me as I leave Gibraltar and the priests and people I love. It is also an invitation to be generous in serving the diocese of Hallam.”

The bishop recounted how he first visited peninsula in 1981, at which point he “immediately fell in love with Gibraltar and its people”, and would soon regard it as a second home.

During his years serving as bishop, he said: “I have been very happy here and have experienced at first hand the warmth and affection of the people of Gibraltar for which I shall be eternally grateful.”

Bishop Heskett confessed that he had been surprised to be appointed to Gibraltar, and more so to the diocese of Hallam. “Over the last four years, when I have been asked, ‘How long do you expect to be in Gibraltar?’ I have always replied, ‘Until they bury me in the crypt of the cathedral!’ And I fully believed that this would be the case.”

“It is sometimes difficult to see the hand of God at work in the different circumstances of life,” he said, “but having had the time to reflect over the last few days on recent events, I am sure that this change in all our lives is part of God’s plan for the diocese of Gibraltar, for the priests and people of the Hallam diocese and for me.”

Bishop Heskett asked the community in Gibraltar to pray for him in his new ministry. “The Church here in Gibraltar is a great praying community,” he said. “More prayer takes place here in Gibraltar per square metre than anywhere else in the world, I suspect!”

Bishop John Rawsthorne whom Bishop Heskett will be replacing, said he was delighted at the appointment.

“He will fit in very well in Hallam,” he said. “The people of this Diocese are very warm and welcoming. They will take him to their hearts in no time at all. My 17 years here have been marked by the welcome and close collaboration of all of the priests and the people of Hallam.”

On learning of the appointment, Cardinal Vincent Nichols welcomed the appointment. “Over the past four years Bishop Heskett’s presence as an official observer at the Plenary Assembly meetings of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has been very much valued and appreciated. On behalf of all the bishops, I can assure him of our prayers as he prepares for his installation in St Marie’s Cathedral in Sheffield and of our support in the years ahead.”

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