Canon Christopher Whitehead Appointed Tenth Bishop of Plymouth Diocese

International Canon Christopher Whitehead Appointed Tenth Bishop of Plymouth Diocese

In a significant ecclesiastical announcement made today, Friday, 15 December 2023, His Holiness Pope Francis has named Canon Christopher Whitehead as the new Bishop of the Diocese of Plymouth. He succeeds the Most Reverend Mark O'Toole, who was appointed Archbishop of Cardiff and Bishop of Menevia in June 2022.

Reacting to his appointment, Bishop-elect Christopher Whitehead expressed a profound sense of humility and dedication. "With complete trust in the gentle, guiding hands of the Lord, I take up the appointment that our Holy Father Pope Francis has entrusted to me," he stated. He acknowledged the unexpected nature of his new role and pledged to serve with all he has to offer.

Bishop-elect Whitehead, who has spent his entire 54-year life in the Diocese of Clifton, shared his gratitude for the experiences and guidance he received there, which fostered his priestly vocation. He also expressed excitement about serving in Plymouth, a region he described as "such a beautiful part of this country."

As he prepares to embark on his new journey, Bishop-elect Whitehead requested the prayers of the Diocese of Plymouth's community. He asked for gifts of courage, wisdom, prudence, and discernment, acknowledging the challenges ahead while placing his trust in God's merciful love.

Canon Paul Cummins, the Diocesan Administrator of Plymouth Diocese, welcomed the appointment, expressing full support and prayers for Bishop-elect Whitehead. Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, also conveyed his delight and extended warm welcome and prayers.

The Metropolitan Archbishop, the Most Reverend John Wilson of Southwark, and the Right Reverend Declan Lang, Bishop of Clifton, similarly shared their joy and support for the appointment, noting Bishop-elect Whitehead's wide pastoral experience and contributions to the Diocese of Clifton.

Bishop-elect Christopher Whitehead's biography reveals a life deeply rooted in faith. Born in Gloucester in August 1969, he was educated and formed at St Peter's Parish and later studied for the priesthood at St Mary’s, Oscott. Ordained as a priest in 1994, he has served in various capacities within the Diocese of Clifton, including as Director of Adult Education and Formation for the Permanent Diaconate.

An art lover with interests in cinema and sharing meals with friends and family, Bishop-elect Whitehead will be ordained and installed as the tenth Bishop of Plymouth in the Cathedral Church of Saint Mary and Saint Boniface.

The Diocese of Plymouth, established in 1850 by Pope Pius IX, covers Cornwall, Devon, and Dorset. It comprises five deaneries: Cornwall, Dorset, Exeter, Plymouth, and Torbay, with its episcopal seat located in Plymouth at the Cathedral Church of St Mary and St Boniface. This appointment marks a new chapter in the life of the diocese, promising continued spiritual leadership and growth under Bishop-elect Whitehead's guidance.

William Gomes
William Gomes

South Asia correspondent.
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