Today, the First Sunday of Advent, sees a new year in the life of the Church, and in the life of our own local Church in Cardiff we see some significant new appointments. Our new Vicar General in the diocese is Fr Brian Gray, formerly Dean of Cardiff, who now replaces Mgr Can Joe Boardman of Penarth, while our new Dean is Canon John Griffiths. Fr Gray is parish priest of St Cadoc’s, St John Lloyd’s and Blessed Sacrament on the east side of the city, but parishioners of St Brigid’s and St Paul’s may remember him as assistant to Canon Dunne and acting parish priest for a few years up to 2004. Canon Griffiths is parish priest in our neighbouring parish of St Teilo’s with Our Lady of Lourdes.
Our diocese is divided into four deaneries, and each Dean has a coordinating role, among the clergy and parishes in his area, and between his area and the Archbishop. In each diocese the diocesan bishop must appoint a vicar general who is to assist the bishop or archbishop in the governance of the whole diocese. It is a personal appointment by the bishop. Church law states that he is “to be a priest not less than thirty years old, a doctor or licensed in canon law or theology or at least truly expert in these disciplines, and recommended by sound doctrine, integrity, prudence, and experience in handling matters.” A bishop can delegate a lot of actions to him, but communication between them is very important.
I remember being told in my church law studies back in the 80s in Canada that although the job of “V.G” might be seen as high profile, it is also potentially very difficult, because of one little phrase in the small section in the law devoted to the role. This states that a Vicar General is “never to act contrary to the intention and mind of the diocesan bishop. In other words, if he has his own ideas any different to those of the bishop, he is to be “of one mind”. Hmm, tough call, especially in the modern church where we are more encouraged to share our thoughts and opinions! Good luck lads!