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Cardinal’s former private secretary ordained bishop of Plymouth
28 January 2014 12:38 by James Macintyre

Mgr Mark O’Toole today became the first bishop to be installed at Plymouth Cathedral in more than 25 years.

At a special service this afternoon, Mgr O’Toole was consecrated as Plymouth’s ninth bishop by his predecessor, Christopher Budd, who is retiring after 27 years.

Mgr O’Toole was Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor’s private secretary for six years and has been the Rector of Allen Hall seminary in west London since 2008.

In his homily for the ordination Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor recalled Pope Francis' advice to the recently-appointed cardinal designates, that they should celebrate with an evangelical spirit of austerity and sobriety.

"When I next see Pope Francis I am going to whisper in his ear that they do things just a little bit differently in Plymouth," he said. 

The Cardinal told the congregation, which included Cardinal-designate Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, and the papal nuncio, Antonio Mennini, that Mgr O’Toole would be the kind of bishop Pope Francis spoke of in his address to papal nuncios about the human and spiritual qualities needed in potential bishops.

Plymouth Cathedral was full for the Mass, which featured an Inroit by Colin Mawby and Mass parts by James MacMillan. 

In June Pope Francis said that candidates should be pastors who are close to the people "gentle, patient and merciful, animated by inner poverty, the freedom of the Lord and also by simplicity and austerity of life.”

When his appointed was announced in November, Mgr O’Toole told The Tablet his priority was to serve the poor and that Pope Francis’s simplicity of life had challenged him.

Mgr O’Toole, who assisted Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor with the apostolic visitation examining clerical sexual abuse in Ireland, also said that he wanted to listen to abuse victims.

His new diocese extends from the Isles of Scilly to Bournemouth and takes in all of Devon and Cornwall, along with large parts of Dorset. It has an estimated Catholic population of over 58,000.

Mgr O’Toole admitted to The Tablet that he did not know Plymouth well but said he related to Cornwall because his family come from the west coast of Ireland and his grandfather was a fisherman.