Today Pope Benedict XVI appointed Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham to become the 11th Archbishop of Westminster. The "prayerful" and "consultative" archbishop will take over an archdiocese that is considered the head of the Catholic Church in England.
Nichols, who is 63 years old, was once considered a "liberal" by some, according to the Telegraph, but has shown to be a powerful force in the British Catholic Church for defending Church teaching and is not afraid to challenge the media.
In a press conference today after the announcement was made, the archbishop said that when he was told he was to succeed Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the previous Archbishop of Westminster, he "just swallowed hard and said ‘yes’" saying that his life is about a "desire to play a part in the mission of the Church, under the obedience of the Church."
He also said that there was "a lot sadness" in leaving his post as Archbishop of Birmingham, calling the priests there "very splendid" and the Archdiocese "the home of the revival of the re-establishment of the Catholic Church in [England] after the restoration of the hierarchy" in the 1850s.
The Telegraph also reports that recently, Nichols fought to protect Catholic schools from being forced to institute a "quota" on the number of non-Catholics admitted. He also successfully pressured the BBC to pull a "biased and hostile" program called Popetown.
When the British government began discussing legislation to force Catholic adoption agencies to allow gay couples to adopt, he also rallied Catholics. The Church eventually lost the battle and adoption agencies are currently in a state of secularization.
The calling to become a priest was recognized by Nichols as a teenager, explains the Telegraph and after completing studies at the English College in Rome, Manchester University and Loyola University, Chicago was ordained a priest in 1969.
Nichols became an auxiliary bishop at the age of 46, the youngest British Bishop at the time. Pope John Paul II then moved Nichols to the Archdiocese of Birmingham where he was appointed archbishop.
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor submitted his resignation, a mandatory requirement at the age of 75, to Pope Benedict XVI last month. Nichols thanked the Cardinal for his "outstanding leadership" to the Church during this "difficult time." Murphy-O’Connor had been the Archbishop of Westminster since 2000.