The Episcopal Ordination of Kevin Dunn as Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle will take place today, from 12noon at the Cathedral Church of St Mary in Newcastle upon Tyne. Bishop Dunn becomes the 12th Bishop of the diocese and the seventh to be ordained in St Mary's Cathedral. He succeeds the Rt Rev Ambrose Griffiths OSB who has served the diocese for the past 12 years and is stepping down having reached the compulsory retiring age of 75. Bishop Ambrose, assisted by the Archbishop of Birmingham, Most Rev Vincent Nichols, and the Archbishop of Liverpool, Most Rev Patrick Kelly, will ordain Kevin Dunn. In total 26 bishops will be present, including the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith Patrick O'Brien (Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh), and the Archbishop of Glasgow, Most Rev Mario Conti. His Holiness Pope John Paul II will be represented by Mgr Marek Zalewski, First Secretary at the Apostolic Nunciature in London and deputising for the Apostolic Nuncio (Papal Ambassador) to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Archbishop Pablo Puente. The Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear, Mr Nigel Sherlock, and the High Sheriff, Sir Neville Trotter, will represent Her Majesty the Queen. Civic leaders representing all parts of the region will be present and will include the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Newcastle. The Anglican Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Rev Martin Wharton, and representatives of other major denominations and faiths of the region will be in attendance each of whom will formally welcome the Bishop during the ceremony, according to the tradition of their own faith, and pray for his new ministry. The ceremony marks the official transfer of office to Bishop Dunn from Bishop Ambrose who, symbolically, will hand over his crosier (the Bishop's pastoral staff) to the new Bishop together with his pectoral cross which is the Cuthbert Cross also known as the Durham Cross. Two school children will then lead the new Bishop to his cathedra, the Bishop's Chair. The canopy of the Chair (also known as the Throne) was designed and made by famous Tyneside artist Ralph Hedley for the Cathedral in the late 1800s. It features two hand-carved statues, one of St Cuthbert, patron of the diocese and one of the Virgin Mary, patron of the Cathedral. After the ceremony Bishop Dunn will attend a reception in the grounds of the Cathedral. Later in the day Bishop Dunn will lead a celebration of Solemn Vespers for a congregation of over 600 people drawn from across the region. Throughout the day over 1200 people including the principal civic and religious leaders of the region as well as many school children will have attended both celebrations at the Cathedral. Since his appointment by Pope John Paul II at the end of March, Bishop-Elect Dunn has visited the region, which included a private visit to Durham Cathedral and Holy Island with Bishop Ambrose. They knelt and prayed at the tombs of St Bede and St Cuthbert in Durham and on Holy Island prayed as they faced Inner Farne where Cuthbert died. Speaking before the Episcopal Ordination Bishop-Elect Dunn said: "Although the initial shock of my appointment has begun to subside my excitement has intensified; I am so looking forward to taking up my position. "In recent weeks I have learned much about the North East and have taken the opportunity to visit when possible. Now I have moved here I am very keen to make much more rapid progress and to have opportunities to meet with and listen to people in the region. 'There is no doubt that, in following Bishop Ambrose, I have a hard task set. I know the high regard in which he is held by many - Catholics and non-Catholics, religious and secular alike. With God's help I hope to build on his fine example and leadership. "I am also looking forward to working with the leaders of the other Christian Churches and Faith Communities, many of whom have written to me with kind words of welcome and encouragement. Many times during the last few weeks I have been told how fortunate I am to be coming to the North East - how wonderful are its places and people. I can see already this is true!" Retiring Bishop Griffiths added: "Although I know it will be a wrench for Kevin Dunn to leave his native Midlands he will discover, as I have done, what a wonderful part of England this is. He will be supported, as I have been, by the warmth and openness of its people. "It is a great tribute to the high regard in which he is held that so many, over 200, will be travelling from Birmingham to witness his ordination.' Fr Michael Campion, Dean of St Mary's Cathedral continued: "All of us who have met Bishop Dunn are struck by his cheerful manner and straightforward approach. He has extensive pastoral experience of dealing with a wide range of people and issues which should stand him in very good stead as he gets to know all of us in the region. "I gather he is a keen golfer and general lover of sport - always a good start when moving to the North East!"
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