Bishop Arthur comes home

Bishop Arthur Roche, who has just been made Co-adjutor Bishop of Leeds in a ceremony at St Anne's Roman Catholic Cathedral in the city, is a Batley Carr man who was ordained a priest in St Joseph's Church.

At a special mass in Leeds Cathedral on Monday, Bishop Arthur Roche presented a mandate from Pope John Paul II to Bishop David Konstant, stating that he had been appointed Co-adjutor Bishop for Leeds with the right of succession.

Bishop Roche, 52, who was ordained a priest in his local church, St Joseph's in Batley Carr, is pleased to be coming home after a varied life in the ministry with time spent in Rome and at Westminster.

The Bishop said: "It is exciting to come back to Leeds as a priest in a parish. I am at home here. I know the priests and the people and the situation of the area."

He was born and brought up in Batley Carr, where he attended St Joseph's School and later St John Fisher RC High School. His mother, Frances, worked in the mills from the age of 18 and his father, Arthur, was a car mechanic.

"I wanted to be an engine driver or fireman," he said. "But I think all along there was something sort of working away within me. It was at the age of 19 when I finally offered myself for consideration as a priest."

In 1969 Bishop Roche went to the English College at Valladolid in Spain where he stayed for six years, studying in Spanish for his priesthood.

"They were great years," he said "It was an old-fashioned Spain before the EU."

Later he obtained a Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology from the University of Camillas in Rome, which enabled him to teach theology.

Bishop Roche's mother lived in Thornhill until she died in June at the age of 94. His sister, Margaret, still lives in Dewsbury and attends St Paulinus Church, where his mother also worshipped.

"Batley and Dewsbury have changed immensely since I was a lad," he said. "There were mills around Batley Carr, but that has all gone. I would love to come back to Batley and am waiting for an invitation."

Bishop Roche's first parish was in Barnsley, where he served as curate from August 1975 until January 1978. His journey with the Catholic Church has included appointments as the vice-chancellor of the diocese of Leeds in 1979 and general secretary to The Bishops' Conference of England and Wales in 1996, when he served three 'Presidents of the Conference', Cardinal Basil Hume, Archbishop Michael Bowen and Cardinal Murphy O'Connor.

The Bishop has met the Pope on a number of occasions and celebrated mass with him in his private chapel last year. He recently saw him in Toronto for the World Youth Day attended by 30 young people from the diocese.

He was ordained a bishop in May 2001 by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor at Westminster Cathedral where he has been serving as an auxiliary bishop.

His latest appointment was at the request of the Bishop of Leeds, who suffered a stroke earlier this year and is due to retire at the age of 75 in three years.

Bishop Roche said his role is to service the needs of the people, exercise a certain oversight and secure the needs of the local church by helping it develop and spread the message of the church.

"I am looking forward to giving back to the people of this diocese something that previous generations had given to me – a great respect for God and for people and an understanding of how God makes a difference to people's lives. I have the opportunity of working alongside people and giving them whatever encouragement, help and support I can."

The bishop is also keen to work with other Christian churches and religions, saying that there was a great urgency for peace, justice and forgiveness in the world.

"There is no peace without justice or forgiveness and I think September 11 tells us a great deal about that," he said.

"There is an urgent need to discover how to co-operate and grow as the human family.

"The principal cause of terrorism is not poverty, it is humiliation. There is a point at which people can no longer take being humiliated and that comes from the lack of respect. There needs to be a will to create a new world or things will overtake us in a catastrophic way."