Spokesman for Portsmouth diocese says there is a 'growing disquiet' over time it is taking to appoint a successor

The Diocese of Portsmouth has urged the Vatican to allow 75-year-old Bishop Crispian Hollis to retire.

The bishop, who reached retirement age last November and has been undergoing treatment for bowel cancer, is on “light duties” but is still responsible for the diocese.

A statement said there was “growing disquiet” about the length of time it was taking to appoint a successor.

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Valerie Cockell, a parishioner, was quoted as saying: “Bishop Crispian has served us well for over 20 years. For most of that time he was in good health and has been an energetic and pastoral bishop. Now that he has had health problems he should be allowed to retire and rest.”

She added: “It is, frankly, cruel to require any priest or bishop to continue in office to the age of 75 but when someone is not in the best of health it is shameful to keep them in office.”

Today Bishop Hollis celebrated a farewell Mass with his clergy.

In his homily he was expected to recall the moment he was installed as bishop 23 years ago.

In an advance copy of the homily sent to media he said it was “an awesome thought to realise the precious nature of what was being entrusted to me” as bishop.

The bishop said: “As a teacher and pastor, I was entrusted with God’s word and the life and flourishing of His people in this diocese. I prayed for courage to face that challenge and I prayed also for wisdom not to succumb what can be a besetting sin of some bishops – the capacity to produce instant wisdom and an authoritative answer to every question.

“Without wishing to seem romantic, I have sought to love you all, to be aware of your great gifts and to do my best to enable those gifts to flourish for the good of the whole Church and for your own good too.”

Bishop Hollis said that “time and again, I’ve been moved by your unselfish commitment and faith… I’m fully aware that a bishop is powerless without the collaboration, cooperation and support of his clergy.”

He said that his years as bishop had been “immeasurably good for me”, but added that it was “time to move on”.

“I have fought the good fight,” he said, “I have kept the faith and – more or less – I have finished the race. I hand over to my successor, whoever he may be, with confidence and all I ask of you is that you will love him as you have loved me and cherish – and humour – him as you have done for me.

“Bless you all and thank you, from the depths of my heart.”

Full text of Bishop Hollis’s homily

FAREWELL TO THE CLERGY
Basingstoke – May 31st 2012 – Feast of the Visitation
I know that I am tempting fate to say that this is a last farewell, but with holidays upon us and the increasing busyness of these summer months, this seemed to be the best time to celebrate this farewell Eucharist and festive lunch with as many of you as possible.

To do so on this feast of the Visitation is particularly poignant, as we remember that extraordinary encounter in which Elizabeth recognises the presence of Christ in the womb of Mary and when we too recognise that same presence of Christ in one another and in the work that we do together. Elizabeth rejoices in the presence of the Lord and I have this long sought opportunity to rejoice in that same presence of the Lord that is in you and in your ministry.

We have heard again those wonderful words of promise from the prophecy of Zechariah – “In those days, ten men, from every language, will take a Jew by the sleeve and say: ‘we want to go with you, since we have learned that God is with you’”. It’s been a joy for me to have seen this happening in your lives and in your ministry.

St Paul reminds us of the need for integrity and honesty in our loving and we pray for the capacity to ‘fight the good fight’ of faith and to have an open heart to care for the poor and disadvantaged.

Mary’s song of rejoicing comes with the Magnificat and we can justly appropriate Mary’s words as we rejoice in the evidence of the power of God at work in our lives and in our pastoral care of one another and of our people.

In preparing for today, I went back to the homily I preached at my Mass of Installation in January 1989. I came to that day very diffident and unsure of myself and yet, paradoxically, strangely confident. This was very largely because of the history of the diocese with which I had been entrusted and because I was surrounded by the fruits of the work of those who had gone before me. It was somewhat of an awesome thought to realise the precious nature of what was being entrusted to me.

As a teacher and pastor, I was entrusted with God’s word and the life and flourishing of His people in this diocese. I prayed for courage to face that challenge and I prayed also for wisdom not to succumb what can be a besetting sin of some bishops – the capacity to produce instant wisdom and an authoritative answer to every question. The wisdom for which I prayed was that I would be able to listen and to discern, to recognise and discover the Spirit at work in your lives and ministries and in the life of the diocese. Your gifts are the raw material for the work of any bishop who seeks to work collaboratively with those who are his prime helpers for the mission and communion of the Church.

It’s not for me to assess whether or not my prayers have been answered; you are better judges of that than I am. What I do know, however, is that, with me, you have given yourselves most generously to God, so that together we have been able to minister to all “under the guidance of the Gospel.”

Without wishing to seem romantic, I have sought to love you all, to be aware of your great gifts and to do my best to enable those gifts to flourish for the good of the whole Church and for your own good too. There are times in a so-called hierarchical church when barriers are set up or exist between bishops and the clergy. I have tried my best to break down those barriers to enable warmth and friendship between us to flourish. I am very aware of how many mistakes I have made – and I am sure you are aware of many more – but through your forgiveness, for which I now ask again, I am enabled today to rejoice with you in the work and life that we have shared.

Time and again, I’ve been moved by your unselfish commitment and faith and I have often been very proud to say within the diocese, and outside, how blessed we are in our priests and our deacons. Through the Spirit and through your love and commitment, we have achieved much – and I’m fully aware that a bishop is powerless without the collaboration, cooperation and support of his clergy. Largely because of what you have done, my successor will inherit, in financial terms, a not inconsiderable ‘war chest’ as a result of the Living Our Faith campaign which you so generously supported. He will inherit a restructured diocese with which to face some of the challenges to the mission and life of the Church in the 21st century. Most importantly, he will inherit a body of clergy who know how to work collaboratively and who, working with courage and maturity, are ready to take full responsibility for the task of proclaiming and living the Gospel.

23 years is a long time to be in one place and you have been very patient with all my shortcomings. I thank you for that with all my heart. These years have been unimaginably good for me, though I can’t pretend that I have absolutely enjoyed every minute of them. You have given me the space and understanding in which it has been possible for me to grow – I am particularly appreciative of all the love and support that flowed over me during my recent illness – and for me you have made these years rich beyond measure.

But now it’s time to move on: “I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith and – more or less – I have finished the race.” I hand over to my successor, whoever he may be, with confidence and all I ask of you is that you will love him as you have loved me and cherish – and humour – him as you have done for me.

Bless you all and thank you – from the depths of my heart.

Bishop Crispian

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