Today, Wednesday 14 June 2023, His Holiness Pope Francis has appointed Rt Rev. Stephen Wright as the Fifteenth Bishop of the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.
On hearing the news of his appointment Bishop Stephen said:
“’My grace is enough for you’ (2 Cor 12:9) were the words of Scripture that I prayed most about when I was first appointed a Bishop. Those comforting words of St Paul reflecting on his own weaknesses have been in my heart and mind again, as I accept the Lord’s call to serve the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle. I confess to being somewhat daunted. The ministry of a diocesan Bishop is onerous. I will be serving in an area I am not familiar with, and I am painfully aware that you have suffered hurt and shock in recent months. But I trust that God’s grace is indeed enough for us all when we accept it into our hearts and minds, co-operate with it and serve. The Lord sends us all out to be his missionary disciples. To serve as he served. Please, your prayers are a powerful part of that grace. Please pray for the whole diocesan family every day. Please pray for me each day as I will pray for you all.
“A Bishop is called to care for the People of God entrusted to him like Christ the Good Shepherd. My first acts are to listen to you, to learn from you and discern with the whole diocesan family how we worship the Lord and serve in our local communities. I look forward with joy to meeting you all in the weeks and months ahead; to see how the grace of God is alive in our parishes, our schools, our religious and lay communities, our youth ministry, our Caritas work, and in all the many ministries and communities across the Diocese. I want to discern with you how the Holy Spirit is calling us to be a synodal Church. I look forward to meeting and working with our sisters and brothers of other Christian traditions, of other faiths and none and the wider society here in the North-East.
“My heart and mind will always be a Parish Priest. Although the ministry of a Bishop is different with other burdens and joys, I am delighted that at its heart a Bishop’s ministry is like that of a Parish Priest. Stand with your people. Know them, serve them. Do not lord it over them.
“In November 2021, Pope Francis preached, “Blessed is the Bishop who considers his ministry a service and not a power, making meekness his strength, giving to all the right of citizenship in his own heart, so as to inhabit the land promised to the meek.” Please, pray that I will be faithful to that call to serve you.
“As your Bishop it is essential that I model best practice in safeguarding matters in my personal conduct and by following the national safeguarding policies. I welcome the diocesan safeguarding team and committee and the CSSA holding me to account in all the safeguarding work I am involved in. I will follow their expert informed advice. All clergy and other relevant appointments will be made by me after consultation with the safeguarding team and after any advice is received.
“I accept Pope Francis’ appointment to Hexham and Newcastle with joy, albeit a nervous joy at present. I look forward to being at home here with you soon and serving you. Please keep me in your prayers as you are in mine.”
Our Lady, pray for us. St Cuthbert, pray for us.
Archbishop Malcolm McMahon OP, Archbishop of Liverpool and Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle said:
“I am delighted with the appointment of Bishop Stephen Wright as the new Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle. As the former Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, Bishop Stephen brings pastoral experience and leadership skills to the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle. Alongside Archbishop Bernard Longley, Bishop Stephen has played a senior role in safeguarding reviews in the Archdiocese of Birmingham. His time as Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop has prepared him for this challenging role and he will bring vitality to the diocese.
Bishop Stephen has my full prayers and support as he starts his new journey.”
Archbishop Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham who ordained Bishop Stephen as a Bishop and has worked with him over many years as priest and Bishop said:
“I know that Bishop Stephen will miss his home diocese, having grown up in Staffordshire and served as a priest here since his ordination in 2000 and since 2020 as Auxiliary Bishop. He will be greatly missed by his brother priests and by the communities that he has served across the Episcopal Area of Staffordshire, the Black Country and Wolverhampton. With his considerable pastoral experience and wisdom, he will approach his new responsibilities in Hexham and Newcastle with energy and enthusiasm, but always sensitive to the history and character of his new diocese. As he prepares to leave the Midlands of St Chad for the North-East of St Cuthbert, I wish him every blessing in his apostolate and assure him of our gratitude and our prayers.”
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said on the news of Bishop Stephen’s appointment:
“I welcome the appointment of Bishop Stephen Wright as Bishop of the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle. This appointment is both timely and most fitting. Bishop Stephen brings a wealth of diocesan pastoral experience to his new role. He also brings a sharp awareness and knowledge of the legal frameworks, both canonical and civil, within which a Diocesan Church carries out its mission.
“With the publication of the CSSA Report, and with this appointment, the people, priests and religious of the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle can look forward with hope and confidence. Please remember the new Bishop in your prayers.”
Bishop Stephen will be installed as the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle at a Mass to be held at St Mary’s Cathedral, Newcastle, on Wednesday 19 July 2023. Further details of this ceremony will be provided in time.
Bishop Stephen uses first public statement as letter of introudction to the people of Hexham and Newcastle.