What is the Bishopric of the Forces in Great Britain?

Introduction

Cathedral of St Michael and St George, Aldershot.

The Bishopric of the Forces (in Great Britain) is the Latin Church Catholic military ordinariate (non-geographically aligned) which provides chaplains to the British Armed Forces based in the United Kingdom and their overseas postings.

It is exempt, i.e. directly subject to the Holy See (not part of any ecclesiastical province) and its Roman Congregation for Bishops, whilst being a full member of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. The chaplains (padres) are drawn from the dioceses of England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and the Commonwealth, as well as from some religious orders. Chaplains have spiritual and pastoral care of military personnel and their families.

Until 1986, they were called “military vicariates” and had a status similar to that of apostolic vicariates which are headed by a bishop who receives his authority by delegation from the Pope. The apostolic constitution Spirituali Militum Curae of 21 April 1986 raised their status, declaring that the bishop who heads one of them is an “ordinary”, holding authority by virtue of his office, and not by delegation from another person in authority.

There is sometimes confusion between the holder of this Catholic post and the Anglican “Bishop to the Forces“: for this reason the former is normally referred to as “the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Forces”.

Offices and Statistics

The current Bishop of the Forces is the Right Reverend Paul Mason, who was appointed by Pope Francis on 09 July 2018. The Vicar General of the Bishopric and Dean of the Military Cathedral is Father Nick Gosnell. The chancellor of the Bishopric of the Forces is Father Stephen Sharkey.

The diocesan office and the episcopal see, the Cathedral of St Michael and St George (dedicated to traditional patron saints of chivalry and military), are located on Queens Avenue, Aldershot, Hampshire, England.

As per 2014 it has 25 priests (23 diocesan, 2 religious), 2 deacons and 2 lay religious brothers.

Brief History

From 1917, individual titular bishops were appointed, twice, as Roman Catholic Bishops of the Forces.

On 21 November 1953, a permanent Military Vicariate of Great Britain was established, still always held by titular bishops.

On 21 July 1986, it was promoted as Military Ordinariate of Bishopric of the Forces in Great Britain, with its own Ordinary.

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