Our men in Rome

With the news of Canon Peter Collins’ election as Bishop of East Anglia plus the still fresh arrival of Mark O’Toole as our own archbishop, it’s interesting to know that there are at present two English bishops with very important posts at the Vatican. Considering we are a small Catholic community on the world stage, that’s very unusual.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher was born in Liverpool in 1954. He was educated at St Francis Xavier School and ordained priest in 1977. He was studying at the English College seminary in Rome at the same time as I was at the other English and Welsh seminary in Rome, the Beda, and I remember meeting him a few times. After several years in parishes he was sent back to Rome to the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the training ground for Vatican diplomats.

His first three postings in the diplomatic service took him to three continents: to Tanzania, Uruguay and the Philippines. He then returned to Rome before becoming the Representative of the Holy See at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. He was next appointed Apostolic Nuncio (papal ambassador) first to Burundi, and later to Guatemala and eventually in December 2012 to Australia. Finally Pope Francis appointed him as Secretary for Relations with States at the Vatican in November 2014, a kind of equivalent of Foreign Secretary in the Church’s relations across the world.

Cardinal Arthur Roche was born in Batley, West Yorkshire in 1950. His seminary studies were in Valladolid, Spain, and he was ordained in 1975. After various parish experiences and time as bishop’s secretary, in 1991 he undertook further studies in theology in Rome. He took up residence at the English College and in 1992 he joined the staff of the college as Spiritual Director. In 1996, Father Roche became the new General Secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. In 2001, he was appointed to Westminster as Auxiliary Bishop to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, and the next year was transferred to be Bishop of Leeds.

From 2002, Bishop Roche was Chairman of the International Commission for English in the Liturgy, of which he had been appointed a member in 2001. Then in 2012, he was appointed as Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Vatican’s liturgy office, by Pope Benedict XVI. He served in the role for almost nine years before Pope Francis appointed him Prefect i.e. boss, of the Congregation last year, and made him a cardinal this August, 2022.

Fr Matthew