Pope Francis has appointed the current Bishop of Gibraltar, the Right Reverend Ralph Heskett CSSR, the new Bishop of Hallam.
Announcing his new appointment, Bishop Heskett spoke of his surprise and also thanked the people and priests of Gibraltar.
“My first visit to Gibraltar was in 1981. I think that it is fair to say that I immediately fell in love with Gibraltar and its people. Today, 33 years on, I am still in love with Gibraltar and its people,” he said.
“For nearly 30 years, I regarded Gibraltar as my second home and then, to my great surprise and delight, in 2010, Gibraltar became my permanent home and the people of Gibraltar, my extended family. Over the last four years, 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.
“So it is with great sadness that I announce that I must take my leave. I have been asked by Pope Francis to be the next Bishop of Hallam in the UK in succession to Bishop John Rawsthorne. I was surprised to be asked to be bishop four years ago and I am even more surprised now to be asked to be the new bishop 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 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.
“I came to Gibraltar to be bishop in a spirit of obedience to Pope Benedict 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 Right Reverend John Rawsthorne, Bishop of Hallam, said he was delighted at the appointment, having known Bishop Heskett as a parish priest in Liverpool.
“He will fit in very well in Hallam. He has a lot of parish experience as he is a very fine pastor as well as being a good preacher. 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,” he said.
On learning of the appointment, Cardinal Vincent Nichols said, “I warmly welcome the news of the appointment by Pope Francis of Bishop Ralph Heskett CSSR as the new Bishop of Hallam. 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.”
Details of the installation of the new Bishop of Hallam will be announced at a later date.
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