New Archbishop of Wales pledges to ‘build places of sanctuary’


Bishop Mark O’Toole is installed as the new Archbishop of Cardiff.

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Welsh Catholics, the Archbishops and Bishops of England and Wales, the Papal Nuncio, civic dignitaries and leaders of other Christian denominations gathered for the installation Mass of Mark O’Toole as Archbishop of Cardiff at St David’s Cathedral in the Welsh capital on Monday. The gathering was trilingual, with readings, hymns and prayers said in Latin, English and Welsh. The new archbishop preached part of his homily in Welsh, which he learned, which the Anglican Archbishop of Wales, Andy John, said would be greatly appreciated by Welsh speakers.

During his homily, Bishop O’Toole said, “What we do together – and together we go forward – is only possible because at the center of our lives there is one person, the person of Jesus Christ”.

He praised Wales’ desire to be ‘the first sanctuary nation’. “It is also an expression of God’s love, manifested in the love the people of Wales have for men, women,” Bishop O’Toole said. “With our interfaith partners and with all people of good will, we want to work together, however small or modest, to build places of sanctuary in our churches and in our communities.”

The Archbishop of O’Toole, 59, has also been named by Pope Francis Bishop of the Diocese of Menevia, asking that the two dioceses be united in episcopal people, in the person of the bishop. It was about more than a smart ecclesiastical solution to the challenge of numbers and resources, the new archbishop said during his homily, but about “building on solid foundations” and working together in the future. “We know we can’t keep doing the things we’ve always done and are hoping for different results,” he said.

The Installation Mass took place on the feast days of St Alban, Julius and Aaron – the latter two martyred by the Romans in Wales. It all started when the new archbishop knocked on the door of the cathedral and was greeted by his provost, Canon John Kelly. Archbishop O’Toole then proceeded to the shrine where he venerated an image of Our Lady of the Cone, the statue of Mary from the National Shrine of Wales. Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti read Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter, appointing Mark O’Toole as Archbishop of Cardiff and Bishop of Menevia, before the new Archbishop was led to the chair of the cathedra.

As well as one of the readings and an auction prayer given in Welsh, the country’s tradition of singing hymns was recognized during the service. One was sung to the tune of Aberystwyth, while the final hymn was Guide me, O great redeemeron the beat Cym Rhondda – equally beloved by rugby fans and congregations alike.

Archbishop O’Toole moved to Wales from the Diocese of Plymouth where he was bishop for nine years. Prior to his move to Plymouth, he was rector of Allen Hall Seminary from 2008 to 2013 and also served as private secretary to the late Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor between 2002 and 2008. He studied theology at Oxford University in the 1990s where his Thesis supervisor was Lord (Rowan) Williams, former Archbishop of Wales and Archbishop of Canterbury.

A second ceremony to celebrate the appointment of Mark O’Toole as Bishop of Menevia is due to take place in Swansea on Thursday. His predecessor in Cardiff, Archbishop George Stack, 76, who is retiring, has decided to stay in Wales and will be based in Caerleon, where he will help local parishes. Originally, like Archbishop O’Toole, of London, he said he had grown to love Wales.


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