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 CNS Story:

WESTMINSTER-NICHOLS Apr-3-2009 (610 words) With photos. xxxi

Pope names Archbishop Vincent Nichols as new Westminster archbishop

By Simon Caldwell
Catholic News Service

LONDON (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham, England, to succeed Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor as archbishop of Westminster.

Pope Benedict also accepted the resignation of Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, 76, the same day.

Archbishop Nichols, 63, had served as auxiliary bishop of Westminster for nine years under the late Cardinal George Basil Hume before he became archbishop of Birmingham in 2000. He will be installed at a May 21 Mass in London's Westminster Cathedral.

Welcoming Archbishop Nichols at an April 3 press conference in Westminster, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said, "He has many friends and colleagues among the bishops, priests, religious and laypeople of the diocese."

Archbishop Nichols said that during his 17 years in London, partly working as the general secretary of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, he had learned a "great deal" from Cardinal Hume about "the demands of the office of the archbishop of Westminster and I am daunted by the task that lies ahead."

"I feel a real need to acknowledge my openness to and dependence on God above all else. But in this I am not unique. Everyone who seeks to follow the ways of God learns to depend on the truth, love and compassion of God more than on their own strength," he said.

Archbishop Nichols told reporters that his first task would be to build on the strengths of the archdiocese. He said that in particular he wanted to find ways of evangelizing Catholic families so they could face the world around them with courage.

"We often hear of the challenges facing our country in finding cohesion in the face of great diversity," he added. "Our churches are places where people are from a wide variety of different racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. They come together, work together and contribute together to the wider good of our society. The church in this country has a great deal to offer and I hope to do my best to contribute to that project in this new role."

The archbishop said British society was confronted by the "serious issues" of how to deal with activity in the public sphere that was "motivated by faith."

"If we banish that depth of humanity inspired by faith then our public services become purely commercialized," the archbishop said. "Human beings work best when their best motivations are energized and that means the motivation of faith.

"Put crudely, real social community cohesion will not be achieved on a purely secular model," he said.

Archbishop Nichols will remain in Birmingham until his installation. Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor will act as the apostolic administrator of the Westminster Archdiocese until then.

Archbishop Nichols was born in Liverpool and was educated by the Christian Brothers at the city's St. Mary's College. He was ordained a priest in 1969.

In recent years he has been at the center of high-profile campaigns in defense of publicly funded Catholic schools and adoption agencies, and has been a severe critic of a perceived anti-Christian bias in the BBC, attacking the publicly funded organization for commissioning the satirical cartoon "Popetown."

Archbishop Nichols said at the press conference that he wanted to have an "open" relationship with the Church of England.

Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury said in an April 3 statement that he was delighted by the appointment.

"I look forward greatly to working more closely with someone who is already a valued friend and colleague," Archbishop Williams said. "I am confident that we shall be able to continue the warm and close relations between our churches that have developed over recent years, and I wish him every blessing and success in this new ministry."

END


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