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Most Rev. Peter Smith

A profile of the late Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Southwark, the Most Reverend Peter Smith.

Archbishop Emeritus of Southwark

Archbishop Peter Smith died peacefully at the Royal Marsden Hospital, Chelsea, just before midnight on Friday, 6 March 2020. He had been diagnosed with cancer just a few weeks before.

In a letter to the clergy of the Archdiocese of Southwark, Archbishop John Wilson wrote:

“Archbishop Peter’s illness progressed very quickly following his diagnosis. He was a much loved brother, uncle, and friend; a priest of the Archdiocese of Southwark, Rector of St John’s Seminary, Wonersh, Bishop of East Anglia, Archbishop of Cardiff and Archbishop of Southwark until his retirement in July 2019. While Archbishop of Southwark, he also served from 2014-2015 as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton.

“In a ministry that spanned almost fifty years, Archbishop Peter made an outstanding contribution to the Catholic Church across three dioceses, and nationally through his service on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

“Most importantly, he was a disciple who witnessed to Christ with straightforward, splendid faith and radiant joy. Together with the other dioceses in which Archbishop Peter served, we mourn him with enormous affection and deep gratitude for all he gave so willingly and selflessly to so many people.

“We now entrust our friend and brother to the Lord whom he served with such faithfulness, generosity and gentleness. May Archbishop Peter rest in peace and rise in glory.”

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, President of the Bishops’ Conference said:

“I learn, with great sadness, of the death of Archbishop Peter Smith. I ask everyone to pray for the repose of his soul and for the consolation of his family and the people and priests of the dioceses he served.

“Archbishop Peter devoted his life entirely and unwaveringly to the service of the Lord in His Church. Peter served as bishop in three dioceses. There are, then, many who will remember him personally and treasure those memories.

“He was a fine leader in the Bishops’ Conference, acting as Vice-President for many years and leading our efforts in matters of social policy. He was a steadfast and effective opponent of all measures in favour of assisted dying. We owe him deep gratitude for his unflinching leadership.

“Peter’s warmth of character and strong personality will be sorely missed, not least by me.

“May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”

Short Biography

Archbishop Peter Smith was born in Battersea on 21 October 1943. He completed his secondary education at Clapham College and gained his degree (LLB) from Exeter University in 1966. He studied for the priesthood at St John’s Seminary, Wonersh, and was ordained Priest on 5th July 1972.

His first appointment was as an assistant priest at St Francis, Stockwell (1972 – 1974). In 1977 he gained his Doctorate in Canon Law (JCD) from the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas in Rome and became Professor of Canon Law at St John’s Seminary (1977 – 1984). He was parish priest of St Andrew’s, Thornton Heath, (1984 – 1985) and Rector at St John’s Seminary from 1985 – 1995.

He was appointed as Bishop of East Anglia in 1995 and Archbishop of Cardiff in 2001.

Archbishop Smith has served as Chair of the Catholic Truth Society (1993 – 2007) and Chair of the Central Religious Advisory Committee (CRAC) of the BBC and ITC (2001 – 2004).

He was appointed Sub-Prelate and Chaplain of the Order of St John of Jerusalem in 2002.

He has been awarded Honorary Fellowships at St Edmund’s College, Cambridge (1997), the University of Wales, Lampeter (2004) and Cardiff University (2006).

On 30 April 2010, the Holy Father announced that he would succeed Archbishop Kevin McDonald as the tenth Archbishop of Southwark. He was Installed at St George’s Cathedral, Southwark, on 10 June 2010. He retired on 10 June 2019.


For more, please visit the Archdiocese of Southwark’s website.


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