John Paul II Names New Bishop for South London

Duchess of Kent, a Convert, is Among His Flock

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 7, 2003 ( John Paul II has named Bishop Kevin McDonald the next archbishop of Southwark, accepting the resignation of Archbishop Michael Bowen, the Vatican Press Office reported.

Southwark is one of England’s largest dioceses, comprising Greater London south of the Thames River and the County of Kent. Some of Bishop McDonald’s career may be summed up as follows:

From 1985-1993 he worked at Rome’s Pontifical Council for Christian Unity with special responsibility for Anglican-Catholic relations. He also completed a doctorate during that time.

From 1993-1998 he served as a parish priest of English Martyrs Parish, Sparkhill, England, an area of Birmingham with a large Muslim population. It was there that Bishop McDonald developed his interest for interreligious dialogue.

From 1998-2001 he served as rector of St Mary’s College, Oscott, and was ordained bishop of Northampton.

He currently is chairman of the Bishops’ Conference Committee for Other Faiths and of the Committee for Catholic-Jewish relations.

The archbishop-elect is a keen soccer fan, loves music, and enjoys walking and holidays in France and Italy. He has nine nephews and nieces and three great-nephews. Though Bishop McDonald expresses surprise at his appointment, according to the outgoing Archbishop Bowen, “He is an excellent choice and my anxieties for the future of the diocese are now happily resolved.”

In England, Greek Orthodoxy has been the fastest growing religion. Under 2% of Anglicans regularly attend Sunday services, whereas roughly 40% of Catholics do.

Catholics comprise only 10% of the United Kingdom’s population, in England and Scotland respectively. While boasting an ancient and continuous Catholic heritage, many of those practicing Catholicism in England are immigrants from predominantly Catholic nations such as the Republic of Ireland and the Philippines.

According to sociologist of religion David Robertson, formerly dean of St. Hugh’s College, Oxford, and a recent convert to the Catholic faith himself, there does seem to be a minor ‘conversion movement’ to Catholicism, even among academia.

Among prominent recent converts is a member of the British royal family who, as Duchess of Kent, belongs to the diocese Bishop McDonald will now preside over.

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