Bishop Mark Davies has been installed as the new Bishop of Shrewsbury during a Mass in the Cathedral Church of Our Lady Help of Christians and St Peter of Alcantara.
The 51-year-old bishop, who had been acting as coadjutor bishop since February, had previously served as the vicar general of Salford diocese. Bishop Davies succeeds Bishop Brian Noble, 74, who had been the bishop for the last 15 years.
During the Mass, Bishop Davies received the pastoral staff from Bishop Noble, marking the handing over of responsibility for the diocese to Bishop Davies.
The new Bishop of Shrewsbury described the occasion as “poignant and moving”.
Attendees at the Mass included the former Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’ Connor and 14 other bishops from England and Wales. There were also representatives from other Christian denominations. During the Mass, a message from the papal nuncio Archbishop Faustino Sainz Muñoz, who was not present, was read out.
Bishop Davies was first informed about his appointment during the week before Christmas when the Nuncio rang him to tell him that the Holy Father had asked him to go to Shrewsbury. He described the moment as one of those “that changes the course of your life”. Still in shock after hearing the news, he went to the Shrine of Our Lady in Manchester and prayed for the grace to accept what was asked of him.
Bishop Davies said: “When I knew the Holy Father had himself asked for me, I knew what my response should be.”
The bishop described his new role as a huge responsibility and felt that, like St Timothy, he too was “being trusted with something precious – the gift of faith and the responsibility of the diocese”.
Bishop Davies pointed out that the biggest challenge facing Catholics today was the challenge of faithfulness, and that living the faith must be the foremost priority. “My task is to announce the Gospel and to teach the Catholic faith,” he said. He said that the best example of living the faith was the Holy Father himself when he visited Britain last month.
The first initiative that the new bishop has announced is to call Shrewsbury diocese to a year of prayer with Mary, starting on December 8. In his first pastoral letter, he wrote: “Our Lady will show us through every changing scene and circumstance that same path of faithfulness, as she said, ‘let it be to me according to your word’. She will help us now to see all that God’s grace makes possible.”
Bishop Davies is the 11th Bishop of Shrewsbury. In the letter he paid tribute to his predecessor, Bishop Noble and the first Bishop of Shrewsbury, praising the example of faithfulness that they left the diocese.
He said that the faithfulness exhibited today was the greatest legacy that “we leave to coming generations”. He reminded the people of Shrewsbury of Blessed John Henry Newman’s words of being “a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons”. The bishop encouraged the faithful not to despair when faced with problems.
He wrote: “I wish us to look beyond the many problems and the plans and initiatives we will need to meet them. I want us to begin listening to the Gospel. Let us listen to that prayer first made by the Apostles: Lord, ‘increase our faith!’ (Luke 17:5).”