Bishop-designate of Hexham and Newcastle addresses ‘troubling history’ issues in open letter to people of the diocese

The newly-announced Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle has begun his tenure by releasing a letter “to the People of God in the Hexham and Newcastle diocese.”

The letter comes following the announcement today by His Holiness Pope Francis that Rt Rev. Stephen Wright, Assistant Bishop in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, will be the Fifteenth Bishop of the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle. He will take over the troubled diocese from Archbishop Malcolm McMahon, who been acting as Apostolic Administrator whilst formal investigations went on into the running and leadership of the diocese.

Whilst Bishop Wright spoke of looking “forward with joy to meeting you all in the weeks and months ahead,” he also said it was impossible not to “say some words about the distress caused to you all and others in recent months.

“In this time of hand-over as well as learning about the joys and blessings in our Diocese, I will be learning more about the troubling history and the ways the Diocese needs to respond to this history so that I can take on my responsibilities, working with you all in the Diocese,” said Bishop Wright.

“The Church will always minister to all people. In the case of registered sex offenders and other serious offenders, the minister, the manner, and the location of the pastoral care must be appropriate and carefully managed. This is to protect the vulnerable, the minister himself, and to avoid scandal. Recent history shows how this has failed.

“It is important that appropriate boundaries are maintained and never confused about who offers pastoral care, upon what motives or basis it is offered and where and when it takes place. To borrow a legal phrase, safeguarding must be done and must be seen to be done.”

Speaking of the broader challenges of his new role, Bishop-designate Wright admitted to “being somewhat daunted.”

“I accept Pope Francis’ appointment with joy, albeit a nervous joy at present.”

On a lighter note Bishop-designate Wright said that he was looking forward “to exploring the beauty of the area of the diocese and learning about its history. As a bird watcher and a person who suffers with the heat, I can hardly complain about moving north to live.”

But he also warned that he is an ardent West Bromwich Albion supporter “and no, I will not be changing that when I move to be with you in July!”

Full text of Rt Rev Wright’s letter:

Letter to the People of Hexham and Newcastle

Story by Catholic Network reporter