Malcolm McMahon, the Bishop of Nottingham has been appointed the next Archbishop of Liverpool. Speaking to journalists when the announcement was made on 21 March, the archbishop-elect pledged to “get the smell of the sheep” in his new diocese, quoting a phrase used by Pope Francis when he urged priests to be close to their people.
The archbishop-elect paid tribute to the Archdiocese of Liverpool’s work with the poor, to Fr James Nugent (1822-1905), who worked to alleviate child poverty, and the partnership between Archbishop Derek Worlock and the Anglican Bishop David Sheppard in the last decades of the twentieth century. He said those two bishops “reflected the traditional, deep concerns of our city for issues of social justice.”
He also paid tribute to the determination of the people of Liverpool “to seek justice” for those who died in the Hillsborough disaster in 1989. “The dignity of their families when they were left voiceless, is a powerful witness to us all,” he said.
McMahon, 64, a Dominican religious and Chairman of the Catholic Education Service (CES), succeeds Archbishop Patrick Kelly, who submitted his resignation last year on the grounds of ill health.
Read the archbishop-elect's full statement below:
I would like to thank you all for coming to the Gibberd Room this morning – members of the Bishops’ Council and Metropolitan Cathedral Chapter, and colleagues from the press, broadcast and social media – you are all very welcome. I am grateful to Bishop Tom Williams for his kind words of introduction.
I am honoured and humbled to have been appointed by our Holy Father Pope Francis as Archbishop of Liverpool. I promise to do my best to repay the trust that he has placed in me, and which the priests and people of the Archdiocese of Liverpool are being asked to put in me from today.
I would also like to thank Archbishop Patrick Kelly for his many years of service in this Archdiocese, and Bishop Tom, who has been Apostolic Administrator since Archbishop Kelly’s retirement last year, for all his hard work.
I am grateful to my family and friends, my Dominican brethren, and the priests and people of the Diocese of Nottingham for their support, guidance and friendship. I am naturally sorry to be leaving Nottingham, my home for the last thirteen years, and I will miss the people there; I hope that the prayers of my Diocese will come with me as I prepare to bid them a fond farewell shortly after Easter.
When I was appointed Bishop of Nottingham in 2000, I thought that I would see my silver jubilee of Ordination as a Bishop on the banks of the Trent; now I am being asked to live my Christian vocation on the banks of the Mersey.
The Archdiocese of Liverpool has a long and proud history, rich in the tradition of missionary discipleship. We just have to think of the many priests, deacons, religious and laypeople who have done so much to proclaim the Kingdom of God, giving their lives in his service. Our parishes, churches and schools are living witnesses to God’s love for us.
There is a rich Catholic heritage in this corner of our country; it is a living heritage which should inspire us and challenge us. This makes me think of: those areas in our Archdiocese where the Catholic faith was kept alive during penal times; the many people who came here and settled, from Ireland and elsewhere; the priests who died in the 1840s, ministering to victims of cholera; and Father James Nugent, with his plea to ‘save the child’, and his extraordinary efforts to alleviate poverty, promote the welfare of children and establish prison chaplaincy. Who can forget the partnership of Archbishop Derek Worlock and Bishop David Sheppard, who both welcomed Pope John Paul to our city in 1982? They reflected the traditional, deep concerns of our city for issues of social justice.
I am aware as an Arsenal supporter that football matters up here – Cardinal Nichols, down in London, supports Liverpool, so it’s a fair swap! I am also aware that some things run even deeper than the team we support – the determination of the people of Liverpool to seek justice for the 96 who died so terribly in Hillsborough, and the dignity of their families when they were left voiceless, is a powerful witness to us all.
There is so much that we can do as the Church in Liverpool to serve our brothers and sisters. Just last week, Pope Francis reminded us that we should ‘have an attitude of poverty and service, of assistance to others’; I hope that attitude will be the approach of all of us in this Archdiocese. The Pope has told the clergy – Bishops, priests, and deacons – to get among the people, to get ‘the smell of the sheep’, and that is what I intend to do; from the day on which I am installed as Archbishop, I will give my life to all the people of this Archdiocese, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.
The people of Liverpool and the surrounding area are renowned for having a generous spirit, fierce loyalty where it really matters, an ability to look beyond themselves, as can be seen in the work of LAMP – and a good sense of humour, something which has kept everyone here going through some very difficult times – including those we live in now. There are areas of real poverty here, and that still needs to be addressed.
I also hope that I will learn from your wisdom and kindness. Although small in area, the Archdiocese has got a big heart. It has always welcomed people from far and wide, as can be seen by the concern of people here for asylum seekers. I know I can count on the prayers of you all, priests, deacons, religious and laypeople, and I am looking forward to getting to know you better as I settle in and begin to visit our parishes, churches, schools and communities.
I am also looking forward to working with my fellow Christians from other Churches and communities, people from all religious traditions, and civic and political leaders, building up the good relationships which already exist between us, in our endeavour to serve the common good.
I would like to assure everyone that, from the day of my installation I will do my level best to lead, guide and serve the people of this great Archdiocese, in Liverpool, west Lancashire and the Isle of Man. There is much work to be done, because the challenges which we face are real. But we are a people of hope; just as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King is visible for miles around, speaking to us of God’s presence in our midst, I pray that all of us in the Archdiocese of Liverpool will be living signs of God’s eternal love, proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ in all that we say and do, in the spirit of those who have gone before us.
I ask for the prayers of our heavenly patrons, Our Blessed Lady Immaculate, Saint Joseph and Saint Kentigern, and the entire Catholic community as I begin my ministry as Archbishop of Liverpool, and I assure you of my prayers in return. Let us make the words of Pope John Paul II, spoken here in the Metropolitan Cathedral in 1982, our own:
Send forth your Spirit, O Lord! Renew our hearts and minds with the gifts of light and truth. Renew our homes and families with the gifts of unity and joy. Renew our cities and our countries with true justice and lasting peace.