Derry’s Diocesan Administrator says he thinks Derry will have a new Bishop before the end of the year.
Father Francis Bradley, who took on his new role last week, believes such an announcement would be a fitting end to the Year of Faith which finishes on November 24.
He told the ‘Journal’: “All the prayers and hopes of the people and priests of the Derry Diocese during this special time will, we hope, be heard and we will, at least, have the announcement of whom God is calling to lead us by then.”
He added: “Given that, with the appointment of Archbishop Martin, a bishop has been found amongst us, then, surely, somewhere near or far, a bishop will be found for us.
“That a new bishop would be appointed during the 1,450th anniversary of the departure of Colmcille for Iona would be a most appropriate way, too, of enhancing the City of Culture celebrations, reminding us of faith, hope and love - the things that will always abide here.”
Derry has been without a Bishop since Dr. Seamus Hegarty’s decision to stand down for health reasons in November 2011.
Asked if it was a role he’d be interested in himself, Fr. Bradley said: “Since I do not feel worthy of the role of Diocesan Administrator, I would certainly not feel worthy to be the Bishop of Derry. That always serves as a sure curb to fanciful interests.”
As an Episcopal Church, said Fr. Bradley, the Catholic Church needed local bishops to “gather and tend to their flock as visible shepherds.”
“The priests are faithful co-workers with the bishops – it is not only people who need the bishop, we, as priests, need yet another good bishop, too; for, insofar as he cares for us and leads us with kindness, so, too, we, in turn, can care for everyone and share out the kindness which we ourselves have known.
“Our urgent need for a bishop, therefore, stems from our nature as human beings as much as from the nature of the Church – we like to know that there’s someone there, looking after us and praying for us.”
Turning to the key challenges he faces as Diocesan Administrator, Fr. Bradley acknowledged that his role was to “care” for the diocese - “and you can only do that by caring for its priests and people,” he added.
“On a personal level, I have to see this role and ministry as an opportunity, rather than merely a challenge, to live the gift of ministerial priesthood better and better each day.
“On a practical level, I must be supportive to the priests who are available to those who need help, guidance and a listening ear. Decisions will have to be taken, of course, but only after careful discussion and discernment.
“Decision-making can, sometimes, threaten to distance people from one another.
“I earnestly hope that good decisions will mean that the Diocese continues to grow together as the Local Church, a true Community of Faith. I will try, with the help of God and so many others, to do what I can to the very best of my ability.”
Turning to the scepticism and distrust of the church held by many Catholics in Ireland, Fr. Bradley said the church must be “humble and contrite” about the “mistakes and tragedies which have wrecked people’s lives in the past, the pain of which persists today.”
He added: “She must be resolute and determined to make up the ground which has been lost in the battle for hearts and minds and, like the Good Shepherd, go off in search of those who have strayed because their pain is too great, leaving no stone unturned, no hill unclimbed in the pursuit of restoring relationships and rekindling hope.”
Fr. Bradley said he hoped the “spectre” of the church as a dominant institution would never be seen again in Ireland: “The only elitism to which the Church should be drawn is that of service. We hear this and see this clearly in the teaching and example of Pope Francis.”
Turning to the new Pope, Fr. Bradley said he felt inspired by the Argentinian-born Pontiff: “I don’t envy Pope Francis his task – but he appears to be a man of deep prayer with an open heart and a broad smile.
“This is what I find inspiring. Pope Francis inspires me to redouble my efforts as a priest today and, again, so does the lived good example of those around me.
“No doubt he will see to it that we, too, get a good and holy, happy and contented man like himself as our next bishop.”