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Pope asked to pick from four names as Archbishop of Westminster steps down

The Pope is to be asked to consider four top English bishops as successor to the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, writes Ruth Gledhill.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, who at 76 is keen to retire, is to visit Rome for a meeting with the Pope next month at which the succession will be discussed. The four names understood to be on the list are the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols; the Archbishop of Cardiff, the Most Rev Peter Smith; the Bishop of Leeds, the Right Rev Arthur Roche; and the Bishop of Nottingham, the Right Rev Malcolm McMahon.

With the possible exception of Archbishop Nichols, none of those on the list is considered an outstanding candidate and they all have their detractors in Rome, and in particular in the English Church, where there is a strong lobby for a more conservative figure.

After savage criticism from some commentators of the English church leadership for its liberal mores, many want an Archbishop more in the mould of the Pope himself and who, once given the Cardinal’s hat, could be guaranteed to vote for a like-minded Pope when that succession comes up.

This raises the chances of a bishop now being talked of in Rome as having an outside chance: the Bishop of Paisley, the Right Rev Philip Tartaglia. Former Rector of the Scots College in Rome, Bishop Tartaglia, 57, is considered one of the brightest and most promising bishops on the conservative wing of the Church.

Dr John Haldane, Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews and a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Culture, said: “This is a tremendously important appointment. The Church here and in Western Europe more generally is having to consider how it addresses its internal questions but also how it orientates itself towards a society that is clearly developing in directions that are yet further removed from Christianity.”

The Pope is not afraid of making an appointment from outside, but might balk at arousing the anger in Scotland that such a move would create. Scottish Catholics are anxious to hang on to Bishop Tartaglia so that he can succeed Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow, who is expected to retire soon.

Full story at The Times.

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