Archbishop John Wilson has been Installed the eleventh Archbishop of Southwark in St George’s Cathedral. In today’s podcast, we’re bringing you the first interview with the new Archbishop.
A Yorkshireman, born in Sheffield, Archbishop Wilson already had some experience looking after a diocese when his was asked to be the Administrator of the Diocese of Leeds prior to Bishop Marcus Stock’s appointment in November 2014.
A mere 12 months later, Pope Francis announced he was to be ordained an auxiliary Bishop of Westminster. It came as a bit of a shock:
“It wasn’t really something I was expecting. But you trust the Lord and go where you’re sent. When I was at seminary, there was a member of staff that said, ‘you blossom where you’re planted’. If you go where you’re sent, the Lord will know where to find you.”
And so, at the princely age of 51, Archbishop Wilson finds himself pastoring the faithful of a large, diverse Archdiocese:
“Each diocese has its own particular flavour and, because Southwark’s a large diocese, there will be different resonances with different areas. There’s a lot to learn but I’m not beginning from scratch. There’s much I inherit that I want to build on and there are lots of people who have been there long before me who I will need and will rely on… The best way to move forward is to listen, ask questions and to really take on board the answers.”
He also reserved words of praise and thanks for his retiring predecessor, Archbishop Peter Smith:
“Archbishop Peter, thankfully, is retiring in the diocese. So I hope he’ll be able to play a continuing role – at a different pace, and rightly so. We’ve begun to share experiences and it has been very helpful for me to be able to listen to him. I’m delighted, in a sense, that my ‘older brother’ will be down the road.”
He finished with words of encouragement to the Catholic communities of both Westminster and Southwark:
“To the people of Westminster – and the priests, religious, school communities – I say a tremendous thank you. Bishop David Konstant, an auxiliary bishop of Westminster who went to Leeds, used to say that he thought some of the most important words of Jesus in the Gospel were ‘I call you friends’. I’ve found friendship in Christ in Westminster and for that I’m incredibly grateful. People I don’t know very well have been incredibly hospitable to me.
“As I move to Southwark – I come in friendship. It’s the same message. The friendship that we have in Jesus is the one thing I can certainly bring with me and hopefully help it to grow between us.”