Archbishop of Westminster

Last updated

Archbishop of Westminster
Vincent Nichols.jpg
Coat of arms of Vincent Nichols.svg
Coat of arms
Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Ecclesiastical province Province of Westminster
Diocese Diocese of Westminster
Cathedral The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Most Precious Blood

The Archbishop of Westminster heads the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster, in England. [1] [2] The incumbent is the metropolitan of the Province of Westminster, chief metropolitan of England and Wales [3] and, as a matter of custom, is elected president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, and therefore de facto spokesman of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. All previous archbishops of Westminster have become cardinals. Although all the bishops of the restored diocesan episcopacy took new titles, like that of Westminster, they saw themselves in continuity with the pre-Reformation Church and post-Reformation vicars apostolic and titular bishops. Westminster, in particular, saw itself as the continuity of Canterbury, hence the similarity of the coats of arms of the two sees, with Westminster believing it has more right to it since it features the pallium, a distinctly Catholic symbol of communion with the Holy See. [4] [5]



With the gradual abolition of the legal restrictions on the activities of Catholics in England and Wales in the early 19th century, Rome on its own ("not by Concordat with the British government nor conversations with the Anglican Church") decided to fill the partial vacuum, which Queen Elizabeth I had created, by restoring Catholic dioceses on a regular historical pattern and replacing existing titular bishops or vicars apostolic with diocesan ones. Thus Pope Pius IX issued the bull Universalis Ecclesiae of 29 September 1850 by which thirteen new dioceses were created. Although these dioceses could not formally claim pre-Elizabethan territorial dioceses (owing to the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829), they did claim validity and continuity with the pre-Elizabethan Church. [6] [7] Historian and descendant of recusants, Paul Johnson, claims that as early as 1718, only 30 years after the Glorious Revolution, Catholics could take heart when Parliament repealed the Schism Act, the Occasional Conformity Act and the Act for Quieting and Establishing Corporations, which allowed Dissenters to hold certain offices. Although these repeals at the time only benefited Dissenters, their rescission and abolition suggested reform was in the air and on Parliament's mind. Then in 1727, in the wake of the repeal of the annual Indemnity Acts, which relieved Dissenters of most of their civil disabilities (making it no longer possible, for example, to enforce by law the attendance of anyone at church on Sunday), Catholics, especially non-aristocratic Catholics, could slowly start to creep out into the open again, long before the Catholic Emancipation of 1832. As a result of the 1727 Act, Christianity in England (Anglican, Dissenters, Catholic, etc.) also ceased to be a "compulsory society". Still, Catholics had to wait another 95 years before being given full civil and religious rights. Nevertheless, the gains of the Dissenters a century earlier were a significant step towards eliminating Catholic disabilities later. [8]

The Ecclesiastical Titles Act had already been proposed by the British Parliament and was passed in 1851 as an anti-Catholic measure precisely to prevent any newly created Catholic dioceses from taking existing Anglican diocesan names, forbidding the wearing of (Anglican) clerical dress or setting bells in Catholic places of worship. It was repealed by Gladstone in 1871 but, even after, new Catholic Dioceses didn't take existing (Anglican) diocesan names.

One of these newly restored dioceses was the Diocese of Westminster, the sole Metropolitan See at that time. However, under Pope Pius X, on 28 October 1911, the provinces of Liverpool and Birmingham were created, and Westminster retained as suffragan dioceses only Northampton, Nottingham, Portsmouth and Southwark. These increased when under Pope Benedict XV a bull of 20 July 1917, fixed the seat of a new diocese corresponding to the County of Essex, detached now from Westminster, at Brentwood, making it a suffragan of Westminster.

During the pontificate of Pope Paul VI, on 28 May 1965, the Province of Southwark was erected, with as its suffragans Portsmouth, detached from Westminster, Plymouth, detached from Birmingham, and the diocese of Arundel and Brighton erected in the counties of Sussex and Surrey with territory taken from the diocese of Southwark. Westminster retained as suffragan dioceses only Northampton, Nottingham and Brentwood. Subsequently these were joined by a new diocese of East Anglia, elected with territory from the Northampton diocese in the counties of Cambridge, Norfolk and Suffolk by Paul VI on 13 March 1976.

The previous Catholic jurisdiction of the London area was headed by the Vicar Apostolic of the London District or titular bishop, appointed by the pope.

Westminster Cathedral from Victoria Street WestminsterCathedralFull.jpg
Westminster Cathedral from Victoria Street

Current situation

The diocese presently covers an area of 3,634 km2 (1,403 square miles) of the London boroughs north of the River Thames excluding Barking & Dagenham, Havering, Newham, Redbridge and Waltham Forest together with the districts of Staines-upon-Thames and Sunbury-on-Thames and the County of Hertfordshire. The see is in the City of Westminster, the Archbishop's cathedra or seat is located at the Metropolitan Cathedral Church of the "Most Precious Holy Blood, Saint Mary, Saint Joseph and Saint Peter", usually referred to as Westminster Cathedral, which is set back from Victoria Street.

The Archbishop's residence is Archbishop's House, Ambrosden Avenue, London.

Vincent Cardinal Nichols was installed as the 11th archbishop on 21 May 2009. [9] He was elevated to cardinal on 22 February 2014, becoming the 43rd English cardinal since the 12th century.

Title of primate

Among the old European Catholic sees, the Archbishop of Westminster is referred to as the Primate of England and Wales. However, in the United Kingdom, this is not legally correct, since the title is formally claimed only by the archbishops of the established Church of England, and is applied to the Archbishop of York as "Primate of England", and the Archbishop of Canterbury, as "Primate of All England". In global Catholicism, however, the last time there was an elected Catholic primate of England in Great Britain, accepted by the state, was prior to the Elizabethan phase of the Reformation. However, the papal bull Si qua est of 1911, which separated the provinces of Birmingham and Liverpool from Westminster, included the provision:

"Insuper Archiepiscopo Westmonasteriensi pro tempore exsistenti novae quaedam accèdent ad regiminis actionisque unitatem servandam praerogativae quae tribus hisce capitibus continentur, nempe: 1. Praeses ipse erit perpetuus collationum episcopalium totius Angliae et Cambriae; ob eamque rem ipsius erit conventus indicere eisque praeesse iuxta normas in Italia et alibi vigentes; 2.Primo gaudebit loco super aliis duobus Archiepiscopis nec non pallii et cathedrae usu atque praeferendae crucis privilegio in universa Anglia et Cambria; 3. denique totius Ordinis Episcoporum Angliae et Cambriae regionis personam ipse geret coram suprema civili potestate, semper tamen auditis omnibus Episcopis quorum maioris partis sententias sequi debet." [10]

Which translates into:

"Moreover, for the preservation of unity in government and policy, to the Archbishop of Westminster are granted certain new distinctions of pre-eminence. He will be permanent chairman at the meetings of the bishops of all England and Wales...he will take rank above the other two archbishops, and will, throughout all England and Wales, enjoy the privilege of wearing the pallium, of occupying the throne, and of having the cross carried before him. Lastly, in all dealings with the supreme civil authority, he will in his person represent the entire episcopate of England and Wales."

List of archbishops

Archbishops of Westminster
18501865 Nicholas Wiseman NPG.jpg Nicholas Wiseman Previously Vicar Apostolic of the London District (1849–1850). Appointed on 29 September 1850 and elevated to cardinal on 30 September 1850. Died in office on 15 February 1865. [11]
18651892 Henry Edward Manning portrait.jpg Henry Edward Manning Previously Anglican Archdeacon of Chichester (1840–1851) and Roman Catholic Priest of Westminster (1851–1865). Appointed on 16 May 1865 and consecrated on 8 June 1865. Elevated to cardinal on 15 March 1875. Died in office on 14 January 1892. [12]
18921903 Herbert Vaughan NPG.jpg Herbert Vaughan Previously Bishop of Salford (1872–1892). Appointed on 8 April 1892 and elevated to cardinal on 16 January 1893. Died in office on 19 June 1903. [13]
19031935 The Official Visits To the Western Front, 1914-1918 Q6156 (Bourne).jpg Francis Bourne Previously Bishop of Southwark (1897–1903). Appointed 11 September 1903 and elevated to cardinal on 27 November 1911. Died in office on 1 January 1935. [14]
19351943 Cardinal Hinsley.JPG Arthur Hinsley Previously an Apostolic Delegate in Africa (1930–1934) and Titular Archbishop of Sardes (1930–1935). Appointed on 1 April 1935 and elevated to cardinal on 13 December 1937. Died in office on 17 March 1943. [15]
19431956 Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F002138-0004, Fulda, 7. Deutscher Katholikentag (Bernard Griffin cropped).jpg Bernard Griffin Previously an Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham (1938–1943). Appointed on 18 December 1943 and elevated to cardinal on 18 February 1946. Died in office on 20 August 1956. [16]
19561963 William Godfrey Previously Archbishop of Liverpool (1953–1956). Appointed on 3 December 1956 and elevated to cardinal on 15 December 1958. Died in office on 22 January 1963. [17]
19631975 John Heenan Previously Archbishop of Liverpool (1957–1963). Appointed on 2 September 1963 and elevated to cardinal on 22 February 1965. Died in office on 7 November 1975. [18]
19761999 Newcastle, Cardinal Hume.jpg Basil Hume OSB Previously Abbot of Ampleforth (1963–1976). Appointed on 9 February 1976 and consecrated on 25 March 1976. Elevated to cardinal on 24 May 1976. Died in office on 17 June 1999. [19]
20002009 Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor.jpg Cormac Murphy-O'Connor Previously Bishop of Arundel and Brighton (1977–2000). Appointed on 15 February 2000 and elevated to cardinal on 21 February 2001. Resigned on 3 April 2009, but continued Apostolic Administrator until 21 May 2009. [20]
2009incumbent Vincent Nichols.jpg Vincent Nichols Previously Archbishop of Birmingham (2000–2009). Appointed on 3 April 2009 and installed at Westminster Cathedral on 21 May 2009. [21] Elevated to cardinal on 22 February 2014.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Primate (bishop)</span> High-ranking bishop in certain Christian churches

Primate is a title or rank bestowed on some important archbishops in certain Christian churches. Depending on the particular tradition, it can denote either jurisdictional authority or (usually) ceremonial precedence.

A suffragan bishop is a type of bishop in some Christian denominations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Metropolitan bishop</span> Ecclesiastical office

In Christian churches with episcopal polity, the rank of metropolitan bishop, or simply metropolitan, pertains to the diocesan bishop or archbishop of a metropolis.

An ecclesiastical province is one of the basic forms of jurisdiction in Christian Churches with traditional hierarchical structure, including Western Christianity and Eastern Christianity. In general, an ecclesiastical province consists of several dioceses, one of them being the archdiocese, headed by a metropolitan bishop or archbishop who has ecclesiastical jurisdiction over all other bishops of the province.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cormac Murphy-O'Connor</span> English Catholic prelate (1932–2017)

Cormac Murphy-O'Connor was a British cardinal, the Archbishop of Westminster and president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. He was made cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2001. He submitted his resignation as archbishop on reaching his 75th birthday in 2007; Pope Benedict XVI accepted it on 3 April 2009.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hierarchy of the Catholic Church</span> Organization of the Catholic Church

The hierarchy of the Catholic Church consists of its bishops, priests, and deacons. In the ecclesiological sense of the term, "hierarchy" strictly means the "holy ordering" of the Church, the Body of Christ, so to respect the diversity of gifts and ministries necessary for genuine unity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster</span>

The Catholic Diocese of Westminster is an archdiocese of the Latin Church of the Catholic Church in England. The diocese consists of most of London north of the River Thames and west of the River Lea, the borough of Spelthorne, and the county of Hertfordshire, which lies immediately to London's north.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Roman Catholic Diocese of Arundel and Brighton</span> Catholic diocese in England

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Arundel and Brighton is a Latin Church Roman Catholic diocese in southern England covering the counties of Sussex and Surrey. The diocese was erected on 28 May 1965 by Pope Paul VI, having previously been a part of the larger Diocese of Southwark, which was elevated to an archdiocese with a new ecclesiastical province on the same date.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Liverpool</span> Catholic archdiocese in England

The Catholic Archdiocese of Liverpool is an archdiocese of the Catholic Church that covers the Isle of Man and part of North West England. The episcopal see is Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. The archdiocese is the centre of the Ecclesiastical Province of Liverpool which covers the north of England as well as the Isle of Man.

The Apostolic Vicariate of the London District was an ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. It was led by a vicar apostolic who was a titular bishop. The apostolic vicariate was created in 1688 and was dissolved in 1850 and its former area was replaced by the episcopal sees of Westminster and Southwark.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Archbishop of Southwark</span>

The Archbishop of Southwark is the Ordinary of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark in England. As such he is the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Province of Southwark.

A diocesan bishop, within various Christian traditions, is a bishop or archbishop in pastoral charge of a diocese or archdiocese. In relation to other bishops, a diocesan bishop may be a suffragan, a metropolitan or a primate. They may also hold various other positions such as being a cardinal or patriarch.

<i>Universalis Ecclesiae</i> 1850 papal bull by Pope Pius IX re-establishing the Catholic diocesan hierarchy in England

Universalis Ecclesiae was a papal bull of 29 September 1850 by which Pope Pius IX recreated the Roman Catholic diocesan hierarchy in England, which had been extinguished with the death of the last Marian bishop in the reign of Elizabeth I. New names were given to the dioceses, as the old ones were in use by the Church of England. The bull aroused considerable anti-Catholic feeling among English Protestants.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Archbishop of York</span> Senior bishop in the Church of England

The archbishop of York is a senior bishop in the Church of England, second only to the archbishop of Canterbury. The archbishop is the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of York and the metropolitan bishop of the province of York, which covers the northern regions of England as well as the Isle of Man.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anglican ministry</span> Leadership and agency of Christian service in the Anglican Communion

The Anglican ministry is both the leadership and agency of Christian service in the Anglican Communion. "Ministry" commonly refers to the office of ordained clergy: the threefold order of bishops, priests and deacons. More accurately, Anglican ministry includes many laypeople who devote themselves to the ministry of the church, either individually or in lower/assisting offices such as lector, acolyte, sub-deacon, Eucharistic minister, cantor, musicians, parish secretary or assistant, warden, vestry member, etc. Ultimately, all baptized members of the church are considered to partake in the ministry of the Body of Christ.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Francis Bourne</span>

Francis Alphonsus Bourne (1861–1935) was an English prelate of the Catholic Church. He served as the fourth Archbishop of Westminster from 1903 until his death, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1911.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Avelar Brandão Vilela</span> Brazilian Roman Catholic cardinal

Avelar Brandão Vilela was a Brazilian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of São Salvador da Bahia from 1971 until his death, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1973.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Wilson (bishop)</span>

John Wilson is an English prelate of the Catholic Church, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Southwark. He had previously served as an Auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Westminster (2016–2019).


  1. "Diocese of Westminster". . David M. Cheney. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  2. "Metropolitan Diocese of Westminster". Retrieved 15 April 2009.
  3. Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Diocese of Westminster"  . Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  4. Nicholas Schofield and Gerard Skinner The English Cardinals (London: Family Publications, 2007)
  5. Michael Walsh Westminster Cardinals (London: Burns and Oates, 2009) ISBN   0-86012-459-2
  6. Grace Donovan, "Women Collaborators in Catholic Education" Maryland Historical Magazine Volume 84, Fall, 1989, 26 ISSN 0025-4258
  7. See early chapters of Walsh's Westminster Cardinals and Schofield's/Skinner's the English Cardinals
  8. Paul Johnson History of Christianity (New York: Touchstone/Simon and Schuster, 1976) 332
  9. Welcome to our new Archbishop. Retrieved on 3 April 2009.
  10. AAS Annus III. – Vol. III. Die 15 Martii 1911. Num. 3.
  11. Miranda, Salvador. "Nicholas Wiseman". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
  12. Miranda, Salvador. "Henry Edward Manning". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Archived from the original on 17 May 2009. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
  13. Miranda, Salvador. "Herbert Vaughan". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Archived from the original on 7 March 2009. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
  14. Miranda, Salvador. "Francis Bourne". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Archived from the original on 27 March 2009. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
  15. Miranda, Salvador. "Arthur Hinsley". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Archived from the original on 1 March 2009. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
  16. Miranda, Salvador. "Bernard William Griffin". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Archived from the original on 1 March 2009. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
  17. Miranda, Salvador. "William Godfrey". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Archived from the original on 1 March 2009. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
  18. Miranda, Salvador. "John Carmel Heenan". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Archived from the original on 1 March 2009. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
  19. Miranda, Salvador. "George Basil Hume". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Archived from the original on 1 March 2009. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
  20. Miranda, Salvador. "Cormac Murphy-O'Connor". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Archived from the original on 27 February 2009. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
  21. "Archbishop Vincent Gerard Nichols". . David M. Cheney. Retrieved 30 November 2011.