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Ordination of English bishop-elect canceled amid unexplained ‘canonical process’

The Diocese of Plymouth in England said in a statement this week that the ordination of Plymouth Bishop-elect Christopher Whitehead “will not take place on 22 February 2024 as expected.” / Credit: © Mazur/cbcew.org.uk|Flickr|CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED

CNA Staff, Feb 2, 2024 / 10:40 am (CNA).

The expected ordination of an English bishop-elect has been postponed indefinitely while Church officials conduct a “canonical process.” 

The Diocese of Plymouth said in a statement this week that the ordination of Plymouth Bishop-elect Christopher Whitehead “will not take place on 22 February 2024 as expected.”

“Canon Paul Cummins continues as the diocesan administrator,” the statement said. “A canonical process is currently underway, and no further comments will be made until this has been concluded.” 

“Canon Christopher Whitehead has stepped back from active ministry whilst this process is ongoing,” the statement added. 

No explanation for the cancellation was given. The Plymouth Diocese did not immediately respond to a query from CNA on Friday. 

The Plymouth Diocese appeared on Friday to have scrubbed its website of nearly all references to the bishop-elect. An earlier interview with Whitehead, as well as a Christmas message from the bishop-elect, were both missing from the site as of Friday morning, as was the December announcement of Whitehead’s appointment by Pope Francis. 

The Holy Father appointed Whitehead as the bishop of the diocese on Dec. 15, 2023. Whitehead himself said at the time that the assignment was “not something I could have ever imagined.”

The priest pledged to “willingly give myself to where the Lord has called me to serve and with all I have to offer.”

Plymouth “is such a beautiful part of this country and I am truly happy to have the opportunity to make my home among its great people,” Whitehead added at the time. 

Whitehead was ordained in 1994 in the Diocese of Clifton, located approximately 100 miles north of the Plymouth Diocese.

Plymouth’s earlier bishop, Mark O’Toole, had moved to Wales in June 2022 when he was appointed by the Holy Father as archbishop of Cardiff and bishop of Menevia.

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