- Pilgrimage to nowhere
There has long been an ambivalence about the man who was both the ultimate betrayer and the means by which God’s plan was fulfilled. The author of a new book visits the lonely place where the renegade apostle took his own life
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Pope Francis today appointed the Director of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham as the Bishop of Brentwood.
Fr Alan Williams, a Marist priest, succeeds Bishop Thomas McMahon, 77, who has led the diocese for 34 years and submitted his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI in 2011.
Born in 1951 in Lancashire, he studied natural sciences at the University of Durham and holds a doctorate in psychology from London University.
From 2000 to 2008 he was provincial of the Marist Fathers in England and has had stints as parish priest in the Archdiocese of Southwark and Catholic chaplain to Sheffield Hallam University.
He has been director of the shrine at Walsingham since 2008, and held the same role from 1992 to 2000.
The bishop-elect, who will be ordained on 1 July, said: “I am both surprised and humbled to have been appointed by Pope Francis as the new Bishop of Brentwood.
"There is indeed a God of surprises and in my life as a priest and Religious I have learned to trust ever more in the grace of God for whatever task has been assigned to me. The Diocese of Brentwood embraces many and diverse communities in city and rural locations. I look forward to getting to know the people and clergy of the diocese; I am aware that I will have a lot of learning and listening to do. Emeritus Pope Benedict encouraged shrine directors to have a special regard for those on the margins of the Church, “of weak ecclesial affiliation”.
“Great numbers of those on the margins make their way to England’s National Shrine at Walsingham. I believe that the pilgrim journey is an invitation to everyone; Pope Francis reminds us that those who accept the gospel are set free – “With Christ joy is constantly born anew”. There are many parishes, educational and other communities in Brentwood Diocese and my previous ministries as parish priest, teacher and school and university chaplain, have made me eager to share Christ’s joy with all whom I meet.”
Bishop McMahon added: “I very much welcome the appointment of Fr Alan Williams as my successor. Those who have met him in his role at Walsingham – including many from our diocese – have always been deeply impressed by the outstanding hospitality, thoughtfulness and care for pilgrims that he has shown there. He now brings these pastoral gifts – so important in today’s Church and especially under the present pontificate – to a new and wider role as our next bishop.”