New Archbishop named by Pope Francis to lead two Catholic dioceses in Wales

New Archbishop named by Pope Francis to lead two Catholic dioceses in Wales

Pope Francis names new archbishop to lead two Catholic dioceses in Wales.

Bishop Mark O’Toole was named Bishop of two Catholic dioceses in Wales by Pope Francis on Wednesday.

Bishop O’Toole, 58, of Plymouth in southwest England, will be in charge of both the Archdiocese of Cardiff and the Diocese of Menevia.

The pope has unified the two sees in persona episcopi (“in the person of the bishop”) with this appointment, although the dioceses will remain separate organizations.

Bishop Michael Duignan was assigned to preside over the Dioceses of Galway, Kilmacduagh, and Kilfenora, as well as the Diocese of Clonfert, by Pope Francis in February.

The most recent dual appointment points to a northern European pattern of dioceses merging in persona episcopi.

O’Toole, who was born in London, will be in charge of two of the three dioceses that make up the Catholic Church in Wales, a three-million-strong country that is part of the United Kingdom.

On April 27, the archbishop-elect stated he only knew Wales from holidays and retreats.

“As we work more closely together, I look forward to immersing myself in the historical reality and different experience of the two dioceses,” he said.

“I understand that this will take some time. ‘Rhaid cropian cyn cerdded’ (You must crawl before walking), says one of our Welsh proverbs.

The three Catholic dioceses in Wales.

The 75-year-old Archbishop George Stack will be succeeded by O’Toole as the head of the Cardiff archdiocese, which is headquartered in the Welsh capital.

“His experience as Bishop of Plymouth will be a blessing to the people of each diocese.” Stack, who has led the archdiocese since 2011 and served as apostolic administrator of Menevia since 2019, said, “His pastoral, theological, and administrative skills will be of immense help to us all.”

O’Toole was born in England on June 22, 1963, the youngest son of Marcus and Maura O’Toole, who were originally from Connemara, western Ireland’s Irish-speaking enclave.

In 1990, he was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Westminster, and from 2002 to 2008, he worked as the archbishop of Westminster’s private secretary, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor. From 2008 until 2013, he served as rector of Allen Hall Seminary in London before being named bishop of Plymouth.

He is the president of the evangelization and catechesis department of the English and Welsh bishops. He is also a member of the Pontifical Council for New Evangelization Promotion.

In 2021, O’Toole spoke out about the misery of a Polish patient in a UK hospital after a court allowed the practicing Catholic man to be denied food and drink.

He commended Pope Francis’ decision to dedicate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in March of this year, adding he was “moved by the Holy Father’s effort.”

On June 20, the feast day of the Welsh martyrs Ss. Julius and Aaron, O’Toole will be installed at Cardiff Cathedral.

He will be the fourth bishop of Menevia, a diocese with a long history that was established in 1987. Swansea, Carmarthen, Llandrindod Wells, Haverfordwest, and Port Talbot are all part of the diocese, which serves an estimated 28,000 Catholics.

“Today’s announcement of Bishop Mark O’Toole’s appointment as Metropolitan Archbishop of Cardiff and Bishop of Menevia, in persona Episcopi, is extremely welcome,” stated Cardinal Vincent Nichols, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

“As Bishop Mark prepares to take on this new duty, I offer him my complete support and heartfelt prayers.” I am confident that the Catholic community in Wales, as well as leaders of other religions and members of civic society, will warmly welcome him. “Pray for him, St David and all the saints of Wales.”

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