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Tomorrow sees the re-convening of bishops in Rome to consider marriage, divorce and sexuality. Last year’s meeting brought bitter disagreements out into the open and the rows have continued to simmer ever since
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Pope Francis has appointed an Oratorian priest as a new auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Birmingham.
Fr Robert Byrne, 56, is a former provost of the Oxford Oratory and has until now been National Ecumenical Officer for the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
He is the first Oratorian to be made a bishop in England and Wales since 1874, when Fr Edward Bagshawe was appointed Bishop of Nottingham.
Byrne entered the Birmingham Oratory in 1980 and founded the Oxford Oratory ten years later. During his time as provost in Oxford a weekly Old Rite Mass was established.
Fr Byrne’s ministry also includes working as a prison and school chaplain and his new role gives him responsibility for deaneries in Birmingham, Kidderminster and Worcester.
The bishop-elect got to know Cardinal Vincent Nichols well when the cardinal was Archbishop of Birmingham (2000-09).
Fr Byrne praised Pope Francis in a statement following his appointment. “[Francis’] example will continue to inspire and shape my ministry in Birmingham, especially to serve the poor, the marginalised and those who may feel alienated from God and society,” he said. “In the spirit of St Philip Neri – the founder of the Oratory and a saint with a great sense of humour – I am committed to helping share the joy of the Gospel message with others.”
Byrne will succeed Bishop Philip Pargeter, 80, who retired in 2009, and his episcopal ordination will take place at St Chad’s Cathedral on 13 May.