Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark presided at the ordination of the diocese’s new auxiliary bishop, Bishop Paul Mason, at St George’s Cathedral.
Originally from North Shields in Durham, Bishop Mason worked for IT firms Olivetti and Hewlett-Packard, before training for the priesthood at the Venerable English College in Rome in the 1990s. He served for ten years as a hospital chaplain and then became pastoral director at Allen Hall seminary.
Bishop Mason said last month: “Southwark is a wonderful diocese with great energy and diversity where the clergy are not only very supportive but also a delight to work with. I look forward to continuing my ministry with Archbishop Peter and to do all I can to support and promote the Catholic faith and help share the love and mercy of God, particularly to the people of Kent and the Medway.”
Immigration is a particular issue in Southwark which has seen an influx of migrant workers from Europe and is the closest diocese to Europe. Several parishes offer Masses in their own languages.
In an interview with Vatican Radio, the new bishop noted that there have been tensions in certain areas, such as Dover, because of pressure on social services, but he said it was important to try and make people feel welcome.
Speaking about refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria, he said “we should be prepared to roll up our sleeves and respond positively”. Parishes in the Kent area, Bishop Mason said, are sensitive to the needs of people who’ve lost their homes, their families and their sense of identity.
The bishop recently visited the Jungle refugee camp in Calais and has encouraged anyone wanting to respond to make a donation to an agency like Catholic Social Action Network (CSAN) who can “put the money where it’s needed, on the frontline.”
Archbishop Smith was joined for the ordination by 28 bishops, many priests and deacons, family and friends of Bishop Paul, and people from the diocese and beyond.