Pope Francis names new archbishop to lead 2 Catholic dioceses in Wales

Bishop OToole Bishop Mark O’Toole of Plymouth, England. | Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk

Pope Francis on Wednesday appointed Bishop Mark O’Toole to lead two Catholic dioceses in Wales.

O’Toole, the 58-year-old bishop of Plymouth, southwest England, will oversee both the Archdiocese of Cardiff and the Diocese of Menevia.

With the appointment, the pope has united the two sees in persona episcopi (“in the person of the bishop”) but the dioceses will remain distinct entities.

Pope Francis took a similar step in Ireland in February, when he appointed Bishop Michael Duignan to oversee the Diocese of Galway, Kilmacduagh, and Kilfenora, in addition to the Diocese of Clonfert.

The latest dual appointment suggests a trend in northern Europe of uniting dioceses under a single bishop without merging them.

O’Toole, who was born in London, will be responsible for two of the three dioceses that comprise the Catholic Church in Wales, a country with a population of three million people that is part of the U.K.

The archbishop-elect said on April 27 that he knew Wales primarily from vacations and retreats.

He said: “I look forward … to steeping myself in the historical reality and diverse experience of the two dioceses, as we work more closely together.”

“I recognize that this will take time. As one of our Welsh sayings puts it, ‘Rhaid cropian cyn cerdded’ (You must crawl before walking).”

The three Catholic dioceses in Wales. Via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).
The three Catholic dioceses in Wales. Via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

O’Toole succeeds the 75-year-old Archbishop George Stack as the head of Cardiff archdiocese, which is based in the Welsh capital.

“The peoples of each diocese will be blessed by his experience as Bishop of Plymouth. His pastoral, theological, and administrative skills will be of enormous benefit to us all,” said Stack, who led the archdiocese from 2011 and served as apostolic administrator of Menevia from 2019.

O’Toole was born in England on June 22, 1963, the youngest son of Marcus and Maura O’Toole, originally from the Irish-speaking community of Connemara, western Ireland.

He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Westminster in 1990 and served as private secretary to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the archbishop of Westminster, from 2002 to 2008. He was rector of Allen Hall seminary in London from 2008 until he was appointed bishop of Plymouth in 2013.

O’Toole is president of the England and Welsh bishops’ department of evangelization and catechesis. He is also a member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.

In 2021, he spoke out about the plight of a Polish patient in a U.K. hospital after a court permitted the withdrawal of food and water from the practicing Catholic man.

In March this year, he praised Pope Francis’ decision to consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, saying he was “touched by the Holy Father’s initiative.”

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O’Toole’s installation will take place at Cardiff Cathedral on June 20, the feast day of Welsh martyrs Ss. Julius and Aaron.

He will be the eighth archbishop of Cardiff, which was elevated to an archdiocese in 1916, serves around 131,000 Catholics, and has eight deaneries covering Cardiff, the Welsh Valleys, Bridgend, Hereford, Newport, North Gwent, and Pontypridd.

He will be the fourth bishop of Menevia, a diocese with deep historical roots that took on its present form in 1987. The diocese, which serves an estimated 28,000 Catholics, covers Swansea, Carmarthen, Llandrindod Wells, Haverfordwest, and Port Talbot.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said: “Today’s news of the appointment of Bishop Mark O’Toole as Metropolitan Archbishop of Cardiff and Bishop of Menevia, in persona Episcopi, is most welcome.”

“I offer Bishop Mark my fullest support and fervent prayers as he prepares to take on this new role. I am sure that the Catholic community throughout Wales will welcome him warmly, as will leaders of other churches there and those of civic society. St. David and all saints of Wales, pray for him.”

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