"There are no atheists in foxholes" - installation of forces' bishop

 Mgr Thomas Burns was installed as Bishop of the Forces on Tuesday, in a Mass concelebrated by the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Pablo Puente, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and 10 others bishops. The consecration at St Michael and St George Cathedral, Aldershot, came after a procession of around 150 clergymen, including phalanxes of Catholic chaplains, Marist fathers and chaplains of other Churches. During the Mass a mandate from Pope John Paul II was read, describing the event as "most important for the Bishopric of the Forces" and adding: "there is in Great Britain outstanding pastoral care of military personnel". Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said in his homily that the new Bishop had "many gifts to bring to his office as Bishop of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines... Bishop Tom, everyone here is extremely happy you are the new Bishop of the Armed Forces." Archbishop Puente and Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor both thanked the retiring Bishop of the Forces, Francis Walmsley, for his 23 years of service. They were joined at the installation by Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Archbishop Patrick Kelly, Bishop Malcolm McMahon, Bishop Kieran Conry, Bishop Mark Jabale, Bishop George Stack, Bishop Howard Tripp, Bishop Philip Pargeter and Bishop Charles Caruana of Gibraltar. Bishop Burns said his service as a naval chaplain had taught him that "spiritual depth is inseparable from operational effectiveness". "There are no atheists in foxholes," he said. "When people are faced with their own mortality, it focuses their minds and they realise there is someone beyond this world who will care for you." He said the Armed Forces needed the work of Catholic chaplains more than ever. "All service people are under huge stress nowadays because they are separated from their families and loved ones by operational commitments. They go away at short notice and can be away for indefinite periods." Bishop Burns, 57, said he would never forget saying Mass on HMS Apollo in the Falkland Islands on Christmas night in 1986. "People from all parts of the ship came together to celebrate Mass on the flight deck and remembered their colleagues who had won back the Falklands." The Belfast-born Bishop - who trained as a Marist - said the Biblical reference he had used most often in his work had been: "Blessed are those who lay down their lives for their friends." Bishop Burns said: "Every service person lives up to that and it is the opposite of what we see so often in the world outside: Blessed are those who lay down their friends for their lives and incomes." The Armed Forces were represented at the installation by Principal Catholic Naval Chaplain Fr Richard Madders, Principal Catholic Chaplain to the Army Mgr Phelim Rowland, Principal Catholic Chaplain to the RAF Mgr Thomas Devany and a strong show of military top-brass including First Sea Lord Admiral Admiral Sir Nigel Essenhigh, Second Sea Lord Vice-Admiral Sir Peter Spencer, Deputy Chief of Defence Operations Lt General Sir Anthony Piggott and Assistant Chief of Air Staff Air Vice Marshal Philip Sturley. source: CMS

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