Saturday, 10 September 2011

Bishop Kieran the First Ten Years - Part 1

FOR SOME, 10 years is a lifetime. For others, it is but a blink of an eyelid. How has it been for Bishop Kieran? Here he is in conversation with A & B News correspondent, Peter Burholt.

Bishop Kieran was ordained in Arundel Cathedral as the fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Arundel & Brighton on Saturday 9th June 2001.

When we last talked you said your ordination was a momentous time in your life. How has the last 10 years been for you?

It has been generally good, but gone very quickly! Although not as much as I would like, I have got to know the clergy, many young people and some parishioners. I have particularly enjoyed my involvement with the schools – the young people give me hope and inspiration for the future. It has been very much a case of learning on the job, but it does get easier as time goes on. Yes, I must admit I have made mistakes in the 10 years, but I hope not too many!

Has your role as Bishop turned out the way you expected or, given the unexpected way you became Bishop, did you have any expectations? Was it a bit like taking a parachute jump for the first time?

This is a difficult question to answer. I knew several bishops before I was ordained, so my life has not been entirely surprising. However, it is a job which is not easy to describe and, so, my expectations have always been quite modest.

Did Pope Benedict’s visit rate as something exceptional?

Yes, Pope Benedict’s visit was a high point in my life as Bishop. Given the anxiety before his visit and the intense media speculation that it would be a disaster, I was surprised and gladdened to see how he spoke in an enquiring way – it was very apparent that he listened before he made his visit.

Since his visit I have noticed an upsurge of interest in the Church and in our Faith. We are having record numbers being confirmed, a greater number of baptisms and marriages, and a general increase in those enquiring - but it’s too early to say it is because of the visit.

Do you meet the Pope on a regular basis?

No, only on my official visit to the Vatican every 5 years – unless there is a serious reason to get us all together. Did you know that there are 5,000 bishops in the world and sometimes the Holy Father is shaking hands with over 150 of my colleagues each week? Poor man!

Before you were elected Bishop you had a deep involvement in the media and communications concerning the Church in this country. Have you felt any repercussions as Bishop when sensitive topics have not been handled as well as you might have hoped, especially on some of the more prominent issues which have hit the headlines over the past 10 years?

Bishop Kieran took a moment to think about his reply.

Generally, in this country the answer must be that communications and the media have been handled well. I’m not so sure that the same can be expressed of the Vatican. They, like us in the Diocese, were on a steep learning curve so I guess, with the benefit of hindsight, a different approach could have been taken.

Does the advent of some Church of England’s clergy and congregations becoming part of our Diocesan family feature as an important milestone in your life?

The honest answer to this question is that I do not know yet. Not that I am ducking the answer, this is a very long term evolvement – you need to remember the Church works in decades, not months or years! I do know that, by embracing those religious and parishioners transferring from the Anglican faith, our lives already have been enriched.

You ask about Ordinariates – this is certainly an interesting move and one which I most definitely put a positive slant on for the future. Again, this initiative is at its early stage as even the ordinations of those transferring have yet to be completed.

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