Monday, June 27, 2011

The Curious History of the bishops of Hexham and Newcastle.

The death of bishop Ambrose Griffiths gave me cause to put on my North East Catholic History Society hat and to check up on the time in office of the previous bishops of Hexham and Newcastle. For this the Catholic Hierarchy site is invaluable.

We started off in 1850 quite well. William Hogarth had been appointed Vicar Apostolic in 1848 for the Northern District and in 1850 at the restoration of the hierarchy became the first bishop of the restored Hexham diocese which in 1861 adopted its present title of Hexham and Newcastle. He stayed in office until his death in 1866 at the age of 79.8 years.

He was succeeded by James Chadwick who became bishop at the age of 53.5 and lasted until 1882 and his death at the age of 69.1 which is perhaps a little premature. Things got worse with bishop James Bewick who died at the age of only 62.5 in October 1886. He was succeeded by bishop O`Callaghan who resigned in 1889 at the age of 62.5 (which seems to have been a dangerous age) although he went on to live until 1904 when he died at the age of 77.5. Bishop Wilkinson was more fortunate in that he became bishop in 1889 and lasted until 1909 when he died at the age of 84.

Bishop Collins died at the age of 66.8 in 1924. His successor, bishop Thorman died at the age of 65.2 in 1936. Bishop McCormack died at the age of 70.8 in 1958. Bishop James Cunningham died in 1974 at the age of only 63.9 having resigned a couple of months previously and was succeeded by bishop Lindsay who retired through ill-health at the age of 64.6 in 1992. (He lived to be 81.6.} Then came bishop Ambrose Griffiths, our only bishop not to be a secular priest, who did his full-term, retiring in 2004. He was followed by the unfortunate bishop Kevin Dunn who died in 2008 at the age of 57.8 and was succeeded by the present bishop, Seamus Cunningham who was appointed at the age of 66.7 and who is now 68.97 years old.

So all in all given that there is now a retirement age for bishops of 75 only bishops Hogarth and Wilkinson and Griffiths can be said to have completed what would now be considered a full-term: that is three out the twelve. Our present bishop, the thirteenth, was appointed at an age when many of his predecessors were already dead or retired.

The bishops of this diocese are traditionally buried at Ushaw (I`ve not yet mentioned anything about the reprieve of the college but will get round to it) but it seems unlikely that bishops will ever be buried there again. Bishops Lindsay and Dunn chose to be buried in the cathedral crypt which is appropriate but not open to visitors. Bishop Griffiths will be buried at Ampleforth.

Animae eorum et animae omnium defunctorum per misericordiam Dei requiescant in pace.

1 comment:

1569 Rising said...

As all of my friends/fans (?) would testify, I am not one of those gullible types who believe in conspiracy theories, such as the Titanic not being the Titanic, the Grassy Knoll concealing a Mafia/CIA/FBI hit squad, Shergar being used as Lord Lucan's getaway
mount, and Elvis being seen in a fish shop in Wallsend. So...

There is obviously no truth in the story that Bishop Cunningham's appointment as Auxiliary to Bishop McCormack in 1957 and his consecration as Bishop in 1958 was due to a mistake in Rome.

Canon J.Cunningham was Vicar General of Salford.
Canon JJ Cunningham was Vicar General of Hexham & Newcastle at the same time.

The theory was at the time that the wrong J.Cunningham was appointed Bishop.

But, of course, it cannot be true, because Rome's bureacracy is infallible.

One would have to be a Sceptical Believer to believe that theory!