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Catholic Church in England and Wales facts for kids

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See also: Catholic Church in the United Kingdom

The Catholic Church in England and Wales is part of the worldwide Catholic Church in full communion with the Pope. Celtic Christianity, with some traditions different from those of Rome, was present in Roman Britain from the first century AD, but after the departure of the Roman legions was in retreat to Paganism. In 597 AD, the first authoritative papal mission, establishing a direct link from the Kingdom of Kent to the See of Rome and to the Benedictine form of monasticism, was carried into effect by Augustine of Canterbury.

The English Church continuously adhered to the See of Rome for almost a thousand years from the time of Augustine of Canterbury, but in 1534, during the reign of King Henry VIII, the church, through a series of legislative acts between 1533 and 1536 became independent from the Pope for a period as the Church of England, a national church with Henry declaring himself Supreme Head. Under Henry's son, King Edward VI, the Church of England became more influenced by the European Protestant movement.

The English Church was brought back under full papal authority in 1553, at the beginning of the reign of Queen Mary I, and Catholicism was enforced by the Marian persecutions; however, when Queen Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1558, the Church of England's independence from Rome was reasserted through the settlement of 1559, which shifted the Church of England's teaching and practice, and in the Act of Uniformity, which caused a rift between Catholics and Queen. In 1570 Pope Pius V responded, in his bull Regnans in Excelsis, calling on all Catholics to rebel against Elizabeth and excommunicating anyone who obeyed her. The Parliament of England made the fact of being a Jesuit or seminarian treasonable in 1571. Priests found celebrating Mass were often hanged, drawn and quartered, rather than being burned at the stake. The Catholic Church (along with other non-established churches) continued in England, although it was at times subject to various forms of persecution. Most recusant members (except those in diaspora on the Continent, in heavily Catholic areas in the north, or part of the aristocracy) practised their faith in private for all practical purposes. In 1766, the Pope recognised the English Monarchy as lawful, and this led eventually to the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829. Dioceses (replacing districts) were re-established by Pope Pius IX in 1850. Along with the 22 Latin Rite dioceses, there are the Eastern Catholic diocese of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Holy Family of London and the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Great Britain.

In the 2001 United Kingdom census, there were 4.2 million Catholics in England and Wales, some eight percent of the population. One hundred years earlier, in 1901, they had represented only 4.8 per cent of the population. In 1981, 8.7 per cent of the population of England and Wales were Catholic. In 2009 an Ipsos Mori poll found that 9.6 per cent, or 5.2 million English and Welsh were Catholic. Sizeable populations include North West England where one in five is Catholic, a result of large-scale Irish immigration in the nineteenth century as well as the high number of English recusants in Lancashire.


Early years

Christianity arrived in the British Isles in the 1st or 2nd centuries. Records note that Romano-British bishops, such as Restitutus, attended the Council of Arles in 314, which confirmed the theological findings of an earlier convocation held in Rome (the Council of Rome) in 313. The Roman departure from Britain in the following century and the subsequent Germanic invasions sharply decreased contact between Britain and Continental Europe. Christianity, however, continued to flourish in the Brittonic areas of Great Britain. During this period certain practices and traditions took hold in Britain and in Ireland that are collectively known as Celtic Christianity. Distinct features of Celtic Christianity include a unique monastic tonsure and calculations for the date of Easter. Regardless of these differences, historians do not consider this Celtic or British Christianity a distinct church separate from general Western European Christianity.

In 597, Pope Gregory I sent Augustine of Canterbury and 40 missionaries from Rome to evangelise the Anglo-Saxons, a process completed by the 7th century. The Gregorian mission, as it is known, is of particular interest in the Catholic Church as it was the first official Papal mission to found a church. With the help of Christians already residing in Kent, Augustine established an archbishopric in Canterbury, the old capital of Kent, and, having received the pallium earlier (linking his new diocese to Rome), became the first in the series of Catholic archbishops of Canterbury, four of whom (Laurence, Mellitus, Justus and Honorius) were part of the original band of Benedictine missionaries. (The last Catholic archbishop of Canterbury was Reginald Pole, who died in 1558.) During this time of mission, Rome pursued greater unity with the local church in Britain, particularly on the question of dating Easter. Columbanus, Columba's fellow countryman and churchman, had asked for a papal judgement on the Easter question as did abbots and bishops of Ireland. Later, in his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, Bede explained the reasons for the discrepancy: "He [Columba] left successors distinguished for great charity, Divine love, and strict attention to the rules of discipline following indeed uncertain cycles in the computation of the great festival of Easter, because far away as they were out of the world, no one had supplied them with the synodal decrees relating to the Paschal observance." A series of synods were held to resolve the matter, culminating with the Synod of Whitby in 644. The missionaries also introduced the Rule of Benedict, the continental rule, to Anglo-Saxon monasteries in England. Wilfrid, a Benedictine consecrated archbishop of York (in 664), was particularly skilled in promoting the Benedictine Rule. Over time, the Benedictine, continental rule engrafted upon the monasteries and parishes of England, drawing them closer to The Continent and Rome. As a result, the pope was often called upon to intervene in quarrels, affirm monarchs, and decide jurisdictions. In 787, for example, Pope Adrian I elevated Lichfield to an archdiocese and appointed Hygeberht its first archbishop. Later, in 808, Pope Leo III helped restore King Eardwulf of Northumbria to his throne; and in 859, Pope Leo IV confirmed and anointed Alfred the Great king, according to Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Individual Benedictines seemed to play an important role throughout this period. For example, before Benedictine monk St. Dunstan was consecrated archbishop of Canterbury in 960, Pope John XII had him appointed legate, commissioning him (along with Ethelwold and Oswald) to restore discipline in the existing monasteries of England, many of which were destroyed by Danish invaders. Two continental (Italian) Benedictines were also prominent during this time: Lanfranc and Anselm. Both became archbishops of Canterbury (1070 and 1093, respectively), received their palliums, and made notable contributions to the church. Anselm later became a Doctor of the Church. A century later, Pope Innocent III had to confirm the primacy of Canterbury over four Welsh churches for many reasons, but primarily to sustain the importance of the Gregorian foundation of Augustine's mission.

Mediaeval era

Our Lady of Walsingham detail I
Our Lady of Walsingham

During mediaeval times, England and Wales were part of western Christendom. During this period, monasteries and convents, such as those at Shaftesbury and Shrewsbury, were prominent features of society providing lodging, hospitals and education. Likewise, schools like Oxford University and Cambridge University were important. Members of religious orders, notably the Dominicans and Franciscans, settled in both schools and maintained houses for students. Clerics like Archbishop Walter de Merton founded Merton College at Oxford and three different popes – Gregory IX, Nicholas IV, and John XXII – gave Cambridge the legal protection and status to compete with other European medieval universities.

Pilgrimage was a prominent feature of mediaeval Catholicism, and England and Wales were amply provided with many popular sites of pilgrimage. The village of Walsingham, Norfolk became an important shrine after a noblewoman called Richeldis de Faverches experienced a vision of the Virgin Mary in 1061, asking her to build a replica of the Holy House at Nazareth. In 1170, Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral, by followers of King Henry II and was quickly canonised as a martyr for the faith. This resulted in Canterbury becoming a major place of pilgrimage and inspired the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. There were also shrines at Holywell in Wales which commemorated St Winefride and at Westminster Abbey to Edward the Confessor to name but a few.

An Englishman, Nicholas Breakspear, became Pope Adrian IV, ruling from 1154 to 1159. Fifty-six years later, Cardinal Stephen Langton, the first of English cardinals and later Archbishop of Canterbury (1208–28), became a pivotal figure in the dispute between King John and Pope Innocent III. This critical situation led to the signing and later promulgation of the Magna Charta in 1215.

Tudor era

Banner of the Holy Wounds (Pilgrimage of Grace)
A banner showing the Holy Wounds of Jesus Christ which was carried by partisans during the Pilgrimage of Grace.

England remained a Catholic country until 1534, when it first officially separated from Rome during the reign of King Henry VIII. In response to the Pope's refusal to annul Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Parliament denied the Pope's authority over the English Church, made the king Head of the Church in England, and dissolved the monasteries and religious orders in England. Henry did not himself accept Protestant innovations in doctrine or liturgy – but he extended toleration, and even promotion, to clergy with Protestant sympathies in return for support for his break with Rome. On the other hand, failure to accept this break, particularly by prominent persons in church and state, was regarded by Henry as treason, resulting in the execution of Thomas More, former Lord Chancellor, and John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, among others. The See of Rome Act 1536 enforced the separation from Rome, while the 'Pilgrimage of Grace' of 1536 and 'Bigod's Rebellion' of 1537, risings in the North against the religious changes, were bloodily repressed.

In 1536-41 Henry VIII engaged in a large-scale Dissolution of the Monasteries, which controlled most of the wealth of the church, and much of the richest land. He disbanded monasteries, priories, convents and friaries in England, Wales and Ireland, appropriated their income, disposed of their assets, and provided pensions for the former residents. He did not turn these properties over to a Protestant church of England (which indeed did not yet exist): they were sold, mostly to pay for the wars. The historian G. W. Bernard argues:

The dissolution of the monasteries in the late 1530s was one of the most revolutionary events in English history. There were nearly 900 religious houses in England, around 260 for monks, 300 for regular canons, 142 nunneries and 183 friaries; some 12,000 people in total, 4,000 monks, 3,000 canons, 3,000 friars and 2,000 adult man in fifty was in religious orders.

Nevertheless, Henry maintained a strong preference for traditional Catholic practices and, during his reign, Protestant reformers were unable to make many changes to the practices of the Church of England. Indeed, this part of Henry's reign saw the trial for heresy of Protestants as well as Catholics.

The 1547 to 1553 reign of the boy King Edward VI saw the Church of England become more influenced by Protestantism in its faith and worship, with the (Latin) Mass replaced by the (English) Book of Common Prayer, representational art and statues in church buildings destroyed, and Catholic practices which had survived during Henry's reign, for instance the public saying of prayers to the Virgin Mary such as the Salve Regina, ended. The Western Rising took place in 1549.

The institutional Church in England returned to Catholic practice during the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary I from 1553 to 1558. Mary was determined to bring back the whole of England to the Catholic faith. This aim was not necessarily at odds with the feeling of a large section of the populace; Edward's Protestant reformation had not been well received everywhere, and there was ambiguity in the responses of the parishes. Mary also had some powerful families behind her. The Jerningham family together with other East Anglian Catholic families such as the Bedingfelds, Waldegraves, Rochesters together with the Huddlestons of Sawston Hall were "the key to Queen Mary's successful accession to the throne. Without them she would never have made it." However, Mary's executions of 300 Protestants by burning at the stake proved counterproductive, as they were extremely unpopular among the populace. For example, instead of executing Archbishop Cranmer for treason for supporting Queen Jane, she had him tried for heresy and burned at a stake. With the assistance of Foxe's Book of Martyrs, which glorified the Protestants killed at the time and vilified Catholics, this practice ensured her a place in popular memory as Bloody Mary – for centuries after the idea of another reconciliation with Rome was linked in many English people's minds with a renewal of Mary's fiery stakes.

When Mary died and Elizabeth I became queen in 1558, the religious situation in England was confused. Throughout the see-sawing religious landscape of the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary I, a significant proportion of the population (especially in the rural and outlying areas of the country), are likely to have continued to hold Catholic views, at least in private. By the end of Elizabeth I's reign, however, England was clearly a Protestant country, and Catholics were a minority.

Elizabeth's first act was to reverse her sister's re-establishment of Catholicism by Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity. The Act of Supremacy of 1558 made it a crime to assert the authority of any foreign prince, prelate, or other authority, and was aimed at abolishing the authority of the Pope in England. A third offence was high treason, punishable by death. The Oath of Supremacy, imposed by the Act of Supremacy 1558, provided for any person taking public or church office in England to swear allegiance to the monarch as Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Failure to so swear was a crime, although it did not become treason until 1562, when the Supremacy of the Crown Act 1562 made a second offence of refusing to take the oath treason.

However, during the first years of her reign there was relative leniency towards Catholics who were willing to keep their religion private, especially if they were prepared to continue to attend their parish churches. The wording of the official prayer book had been carefully designed to make this possible by omitting aggressively "heretical" matter, and at first many English Catholics did in fact worship with their Protestant neighbours, at least until this was formally forbidden by Pope Pius V's 1570 bull, Regnans in Excelsis, which also declared that Elizabeth was not a rightful queen and should be deposed, formally excommunicated her and any who obeyed her and obliged all Catholics to attempt to overthrow her.

In response, the "Act to retain the Queen's Majesty's subjects in their obedience", passed in 1581, made it high treason to reconcile anyone or to be reconciled to "the Romish religion", or to procure or publish any papal Bull or writing whatsoever. The celebration of mass was prohibited under penalty of a fine of two hundred marks and imprisonment for one year for the celebrant, and a fine of one hundred marks and the same imprisonment for those who heard the Mass. This act also increased the penalty for not attending the Anglican service to the sum of twenty pounds a month, or imprisonment till the fine be paid, or till the offender went to the Protestant Church. A further penalty of ten pounds a month was inflicted on anyone keeping a schoolmaster who did not attend the Protestant service. The schoolmaster himself was to be imprisoned for one year.

In the setting of England's wars with Catholic powers such as France and Spain, culminating in the attempted invasion by the Spanish Armada in 1588, the Papal bull unleashed a nationalistic feeling which equated Protestantism with loyalty to a highly popular monarch, rendering every Catholic a potential traitor, even in the eyes of those who were not themselves extreme Protestants. The Rising of the North, the Throckmorton plot and the Babington plot, together with other subversive activities of supporters of Mary, Queen of Scots, all reinforced the association of Catholicism and treachery in the popular mind.

The climax of Elizabeth's persecution of Catholics was reached in 1585 by the "Act against Jesuits, Seminary priests and other such like disobedient persons". This statute, under which most of the English Catholic martyrs were executed, made it high treason for any Jesuit or any seminary priest to be in England at all, and felony for any one to harbour or relieve them.

The last of Elizabeth's anti-Catholic laws was the "Act for the better discovery of wicked and seditious persons terming themselves Catholics, but being rebellious and traitorous subjects". Its effect was to prohibit all recusants from removing more than five miles from their place of abode, and to order all persons suspected of being Jesuits or seminary priests, and not answering satisfactorily, to be imprisoned till they did so.

However, Elizabeth did not believe that her anti-Catholic policies constituted religious persecution, finding it hard, in the context of the uncompromising wording of the Papal Bull against her, to distinguish between those Catholics engaged in conflict with her from those Catholics with no such designs. The number of English Catholics executed under Elizabeth was significant, including Edmund Campion, Robert Southwell, and Margaret Clitherow. Elizabeth herself signed the death warrant that led to regicide, the beheading of her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots.

Because of the persecution in England, Catholic priests in England were trained abroad at the English College in Rome, the English College in Douai, the English College at Valladolid in Spain, and at the English College in Seville. Given that Douai was located in the Spanish Netherlands, part of the dominions of Elizabethan England's greatest enemy, and Valladolid and Seville in Spain itself, they became associated in the public eye with political as well as religious subversion. It was this combination of nationalistic public opinion, sustained persecution, and the rise of a new generation which could not remember pre-Reformation times and had no pre-established loyalty to Catholicism, that reduced the number of Catholics in England during this period – although the overshadowing memory of Queen Mary I's reign was another factor that should not be underestimated. Nevertheless, by the end of the reign probably 20% of the population were still Catholic, with another 10% dissident "Puritan" Protestants, and the remainder more or less reconciled to the "official" church.

Stuart era

The reign of James I (1603–1625) was marked by a measure of tolerance, though less so after the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot conspiracy of a small group of Catholic conspirators who aimed to kill both King and Parliament and establish a Catholic monarchy. A mix of persecution and tolerance followed: Ben Jonson and his wife, for example, in 1606 were summoned before the authorities for failure to take communion in the Church of England, yet the King tolerated some Catholics at court; for example George Calvert, to whom he gave the title Baron Baltimore, and the Duke of Norfolk, head of the Howard family.

The reign of Charles I (1625–49) saw a small revival of Catholicism in England, especially among the upper classes. As part of the royal marriage settlement the Charles's Catholic wife, Henrietta Maria, was permitted her own royal chapel and chaplain. Henrietta Maria was in fact very strict in her religious observances, and helped create a court with continental influences, where Catholicism was tolerated, even somewhat fashionable. Some anti-Catholic legislation became effectively a dead letter. The Counter-Reformation on the Continent of Europe had created a more vigorous and magnificent form of Catholicism (i.e., Baroque, notably found in the architecture and music of Austria, Italy and Germany) that attracted some converts, like the poet Richard Crashaw. Ironically, the explicitly Catholic artistic movement (i.e., Baroque) ended up "providing the blueprint, after the fire of London, for the first new Protestant churches to be built in England."

While Charles remained firmly Protestant, he was personally drawn towards a consciously 'High Church' Anglicanism. This affected his appointments to Anglican bishoprics, in particular the appointment of William Laud as Archbishop of Canterbury. How many Catholics and Puritans there were is still open to debate.

Religious conflict between Charles and other "High" Anglicans and Calvinists - at this stage mostly still within the Church of England (the Puritans) - formed a strand of the anti-monarchical leanings of the troubled politics of the period. The religious tensions between a court with 'Papist' elements and a Parliament where the Puritans were strong was one of the major factors behind the English Civil War, in which almost all Catholics supported the King. The victory of the Parliamentarians meant a strongly Protestant, anti-Catholic (and, incidentally, anti-Anglican) regime under Oliver Cromwell.

The restoration of the monarchy under Charles II (1660–85) also saw the restoration of a Catholic-influenced court like his father's. However, although Charles himself had Catholic leanings, he was first and foremost a pragmatist and realised the vast majority of public opinion in England was strongly anti-Catholic, so he agreed to laws such as the Test Act requiring any appointee to any public office or member of Parliament to deny Catholic beliefs such as transubstantiation. As far as possible, however, he maintained tacit tolerance. Like his father, he married a Catholic, Catherine of Braganza. (He would become Catholic himself on his deathbed).

James II (Ann Killigrew)
James II is to date the last Catholic to reign as monarch of England.

Charles' brother and heir James, Duke of York (later James II) converted to Catholicism in 1668–1669. When Titus Oates in 1678 alleged a (totally imaginary) 'Popish Plot' to assassinate Charles and put James in his place, he unleashed a wave of Parliamentary and public hysteria which led to anti-Catholic purges, and another wave of sectarian persecution, which Charles was either unable or unwilling to prevent. Throughout the early 1680s the Whig element in Parliament attempted to remove James as successor to the throne. Their failure saw James become, in 1685, Britain's first openly Catholic monarch since Mary I (and last to date). He promised religious toleration for Catholic and Protestants on an equal footing, but it is in doubt whether he did this to gain support from Dissenters or whether he was truly committed to tolerance (Contemporary Catholic regimes in Spain and Italy, for example, were hardly tolerant of Protestantism, while those in France and Poland had practised forms of toleration).

James' clear intent to work towards the restoration of the Church of England to the Catholic fold encouraged converts like the poet John Dryden, who wrote "The Hind and the Panther", celebrating his conversion. Protestant fears mounted as James placed Catholics in the major commands of the existing standing army, dismissed the Protestant Bishop of London and dismissed the Protestant Fellows of Magdalen College and replaced them with a wholly Catholic board. The last straw was the birth of a Catholic heir in 1688, portending a return to a Pre-Reformation Catholic dynasty.

In what came to be known as the Glorious Revolution, Parliament deemed James to have abdicated (effectively deposing him, though Parliament refused to call it that) in favor of his Protestant daughter and son-in-law and nephew, Mary II and William III. Although this affair is celebrated as solidifying both English liberties and the Protestant nature of the kingdom, some argue that it was "fundamentally a coup spearheaded by a foreign army and navy."

James fled into exile, and with him many Catholic nobility and gentry. The Act of Settlement 1701, which remains in operation today, established the royal line through Sophia, Electress of Hanover, and specifically excludes any Catholic or anyone who marries a Catholic from the throne. This Act was partially changed when the ban on the monarch's marrying a Catholic was eliminated (along with the rule of male succession).

Henry Benedict Stuart (Cardinal-Duke of York), the last Jacobite heir to publicly assert a claim to the thrones of England, Scotland, and Ireland, died in Rome in 1807. A monument to the Royal Stuarts exists today at Vatican City. Franz, Duke of Bavaria, head of the Wittelsbach family, is the most senior descendant of King Charles I and is considered by Jacobites to be the heir of the Stuarts.

Eighteenth century

The years from 1688 to the early 19th century were in some respects the nadir for Catholicism in England. Deprived of their dioceses, four Apostolic Vicariates were set up throughout England until the re-establishment of the diocesan episcopacy in 1850. Although the persecution was not violent as in the past, Catholic numbers, influence and visibility in English society reached their lowest ebb. Their civil rights were severely curtailed: their right to own property or inherit land was greatly limited, they were burdened with special taxes, they could not send their children abroad for Catholic education, they could not vote, and priests were liable to imprisonment.

There was no longer, as once in Stuart times, any notable Catholic presence at court, in public life, in the military or professions. Many of the Catholic nobles and gentry who had preserved on their lands among their tenants small pockets of Catholicism had followed James into exile, and others, at least outwardly, conformed to Anglicanism, meaning fewer such Catholic communities survived intact. A bishop at this time (roughly from 1688 to 1850) was called a Vicar apostolic. A Vicar Apostolic was a titular bishop (as opposed to a diocesan bishop) through whom the pope exercised jurisdiction over a particular church territory in England. Interestingly, English-speaking colonial America came under the jurisdiction of the Vicar Apostolic of London. As titular bishop over Catholics in British America, he was important to the government not only in regard to its English-speaking North American colonies, but also after the Seven Years' War when the British Empire, in 1763, acquired the French-speaking (and predominantly Catholic) territory of Canada. Only after the Treaty of Paris in 1783 and in 1789 with the consecration of John Carroll, a friend of Benjamin Franklin, did the U.S. have its own diocesan bishop, free of the Vicar Apostolic of London, James Robert Talbot.

Distribution of English Recusant Catholics, 1715-1720
Geographical distribution of English Catholic Recusancy, 1715—1720.

Most Catholics retreated to complete isolation from a popular Protestant mainstream, and Catholicism in England in this period is politically, if not socially, invisible to history, Alexander Pope being one memorable English Catholic of the 18th century and the other being a member of the Catholic gentry, the Duke of Norfolk, the Premier Duke in the peerage of England and as Earl of Arundel, the Premier Earl. In virtue of his status and as head of the Howard family (which included the Earl of Carlisle, the Earl of Suffolk, the Earl of Berkshire, and the Earl of Effingham), the Duke was always at court. Pope, however, seemed to benefit from the isolation. In 1713, when he was 25, he took subscriptions for a project that filled his life for the next seven years, the result being a new version of Homer's Iliad. Samuel Johnson pronounced it the greatest translation ever achieved in the English language. Over time, Pope became the greatest poet of the age, the Augustan Age, especially for his mock-heroic poems, Rape of the Lock and The Dunciad. Around this time, in 1720, Clement XI proclaimed Anselm of Canterbury a Doctor of the Church. In 1752, mid-century, Great Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar decreed by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. Later in the century there was some liberalisation of the anti-Catholic laws on the basis of Enlightenment ideals.

In 1778 a Catholic Relief Act allowed Catholics to own property, inherit land and join the army. Hardline Protestant mobs reacted in the Gordon Riots in 1780, attacking any building in London which was associated with Catholicism or owned by Catholics. Other reforms allowed the clergy to operate more openly and thus allowed permanent missions to be set up in the larger towns. Stonyhurst College, for example, was re-established in 1791 for wealthier Catholics. In 1837, James Arundel, the tenth Baron Arundel of Wardour, bequeathed to Stonyhurst the Arundel Library, which contained the vast Arundel family collection, including some of the school's most important books and manuscripts such as a Shakespeare First Folio and a manuscript copy of Froissart's Chronicles, looted from the body of a dead Frenchman after the Battle of Agincourt. Yet Catholic recusants as a whole remained a small group, except where they stayed the majority religion in various pockets, notably in rural Lancashire and Cumbria, or were part of the Catholic aristocracy and squirearchy. One of the most interesting contemporary descendents of recusants is Timothy Radcliffe, former Master of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) and writer. Radcliffe is related to three former cardinals—Weld, Vaughan and Hume (the last because his cousin Lord Hunt is married to Hume's sister), and his family is connected to many of the great recusant English Catholic families, the Arundels, Tichbournes, Tablots, Stonors, and Weld-Blundells. Finally, history cannot forget the famous recusant, Maria Fitzherbert, who during this period secretly married the Prince of Wales, Prince Regent, and future George IV in 1785. The British Constitution, however, did not accept it and George IV later moved on. Cast aside by the establishment, she was adopted by the town of Brighton, whose citizens, both Catholic and Protestant, called her "Mrs. Prince." According to journalist, Richard Abbott, "Before the town had a [Catholic] church of its own, she had a priest say Mass at her own house, and invited local Catholics", suggesting the recusants of Brighton were not very undiscovered.

In a new study of the English Catholic community, 1688–1745, Gabriel Glickman notes that Catholics, especially those whose social position gave them access to the courtly centres of power and patronage, had a significant part to play in 18th-century England. They were not as marginal as one might think today. For example, Alexander Pope was not the only Catholic whose contributions (especially, Essays on Man) help define the temper of an early English Enlightenment. In addition to Pope, Glickman notes, a Catholic architect, James Gibbs, returned baroque forms to the London skyline and a Catholic composer, Thomas Arne, composed "Rule Britannia." According to reviewer Aidan Bellenger, Glickman also suggests that "rather than being the victims of the Stuart failure, 'the unpromising setting of exile and defeat' had 'sown the seed of a frail but resilient English Catholic Enlightenment.'" Yale University historian Steve Pincus likewise argues in his book, 1688: The First Modern Revolution, that Catholics under William and Mary and their successors experienced considerable freedom.

Nineteenth century

Statue Cardinal Newman, Brompton Oratory
Statue of Cardinal Newman outside the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, London

After this moribund period, the first signs of a revival occurred as thousands of French Catholics fled France during the French Revolution. The leaders of the Revolution were virulently anti-Catholic, even singling out priests and nuns for summary execution or massacre, and England was seen as a safe haven from Jacobin violence. Also around this time (1801), a new political entity was formed, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, which merged the Kingdom of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland, thus increasing the number of Catholics in the new state. Pressure for abolition of anti-Catholic laws grew, particularly with the need for Catholic recruits to fight in the Napoleonic Wars. Despite the strong opposition of King George III, which delayed reform, 1829 brought the culmination of the liberalisation of the anti-Catholic laws. Parliament passed the Catholic Emancipation Act, giving Catholics almost equal civil rights, including the right to vote and to hold most public offices. If Catholics were rich, however, exceptions were always made, even before the changes. For example, American ministers to the Court of St. James's were often struck by the prominence of wealthy American-born Catholics, titled ladies among the nobility, like Louisa (Caton), granddaughter of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, and her two sisters, Mary Ann and Elizabeth. After Louisa's first husband (Sir Felton Bathurst-Hervey) died, Louisa later married the son of the Duke of Leeds, and had the Duke of Wellington as her European protector. Her sister, Mary Ann, married the Marquess of Wellesley, the brother of the Duke of Wellington; and her other sister, Elizabeth (Lady Stafford), married another British nobleman. Though British law required an Anglican marriage service, each of the sisters and their Protestant spouses had a Catholic ceremony afterwards. At Louisa's first marriage, the Duke of Wellington escorted the bride.

In the 1840s and 1850s, especially during the Great Irish Famine, while much of the large outflow of emigration from Ireland was headed to the United States to seek work, hundreds of thousands of Irish people also migrated across the channel to England and Scotland, and established communities in cities there, including London, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow, but also in towns and villages up and down the country, thus giving English Catholicism a numerical boost. Also significant was the rise in the 1830s and 1840s of the Oxford Movement, which claimed Catholic validity for Anglican orders and sought to revive some elements of Catholic theology and ritual within the Church of England (creating Anglo-Catholicism).

A proportion of the Anglicans who were involved in the Oxford Movement or "Tractarianism" were ultimately led beyond these positions and converted to the Catholic Church, including, in 1845, the movement's principal intellectual leader, John Henry Newman. More new Catholics would come from the Anglican Church, often via high Anglicanism, for at least the next hundred years, and something of this continues.

Prominent intellectual and artistic figures who turned to Catholicism in the 19th and 20th centuries included the leading architect of the Gothic Revival, Augustus Pugin, the artist Graham Sutherland and literary figures such as Newman, Gerard Manley Hopkins, G. K. Chesterton, Ronald Knox, Siegfried Sassoon, Evelyn Waugh, Edith Sitwell, Graham Greene and Muriel Spark. Prominent cradle Catholics included the film director, Alfred Hitchcock, writers such as Hilaire Belloc, Lord Acton, and J. R. R. Tolkien and the composer Edward Elgar, whose oratorio The Dream of Gerontius was based on a 19th-century poem by Newman.

At various points after the 16th century hopes have been entertained by many English Catholics that the "reconversion of England" was near at hand. Additionally, with the arrival of immigrant masses of Irish Catholics, some considered that a "second spring" of Catholicism across Britain was developing. Rome responded by re-establishing the Catholic hierarchy in 1850, creating 12 Catholic dioceses in England from existing apostolic vicariates and appointing diocesan bishops (to replace earlier titular bishops) with fixed sees on a more traditional Catholic pattern. The Catholic Church in England and Wales had 22 dioceses immediately before the Reformation, but none of the current 22 bear close resemblance (geographically) to those 22 earlier pre-Reformation dioceses.

The re-established diocesan episcopacy specifically avoided using places that were seats of Church of England dioceses as seats, in effect temporarily abandoning the titles of Catholic dioceses before Elizabeth I because of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act of 1851, which in England favoured a state church (i.e., Church of England) and denied arms and legal existence to territorial Catholic sees on the basis that the state could not grant such "privileges" to "entities" that allegedly did not exist. Some of the Catholic dioceses, however, took the titles of bishoprics which had previously existed in England but were no longer used by the Anglican Church (e.g. Beverley - later divided into Leeds and Middlesbrough, Hexham - later changed to Hexham and Newcastle). In the few cases where a Catholic diocese bears the same title as an Anglican one in the same town or city (e.g. Birmingham, Liverpool, Portsmouth, and Southwark) — this is the result of the Church of England ignoring the prior existence there of a Catholic see and of the technical repeal of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act in 1871. Of course, the Act was only carried out in England. For example, the official recognition afforded by the grant of arms to the archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, brought into being by Lord Lyon in 1989, was made on the grounds that the Ecclesiastical Titles Act of 1851 never applied to Scotland. In recent times, former Conservative Cabinent Minister, John Gummer, who is a prominent convert to Catholicism and columnist for the Catholic Herald in 2007, objected to the fact that no Catholic diocese can have the same name as an Anglican diocese (such as London, Canterbury, Durham, etc.) "even though those dioceses had, shall we say, been borrowed."

Twentieth century and the present

Vatican flag half-mast Oxford 20050403
Oratory Church of St Aloysius Gonzaga, Oxford, with the flag of the Vatican City flying at half staff the day after the death of Pope John Paul II.

English Catholicism continued to grow throughout the first two thirds of the 20th century, when it was associated primarily with elements in the English intellectual class and the ethnic Irish population. Numbers attending Mass remained very high in stark contrast with the Anglican church (although not to other Protestant churches), Clergy numbers, which began the 20th century at under 3,000, reached a high of 7,500 in 1971.

By the latter years of the twentieth century low numbers of vocations also affected the church with ordinations to the priesthood dropping from the hundreds in the late 20th century into the teens in 2006-2011 (16 in 2009 for example) and a recovery into the 20's thereafter, with a prediction for 2018 of 24.

As in other English-speaking countries such as the United States and Australia, the movement of Irish Catholics out of the working-class into the middle-class suburban mainstream often meant their assimilation with broader, secular English society and loss of a separate Catholic identity. The Second Vatican Council has been followed, as in other Western countries, by divisions between traditional Catholicism and a more liberal form of Catholicism claiming inspiration from the Council. This caused difficulties for not a few pre-conciliar converts, though others have still joined the Church in recent decades (for instance, Malcolm Muggeridge and Joseph Pearce), and public figures (often descendants of the recusant families) such as Paul Johnson; Peter Ackroyd; Antonia Fraser; Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC; Michael Martin, first Catholic to hold the office of Speaker of the House of Commons since the Reformation; Chris Patten, first Catholic to hold the post of Chancellor of Oxford since the Reformation; Piers Paul Read; Helen Liddel, Britain's High Commissioner to Australia; and former Prime Minister's wife, Cherie Blair, have no difficulty making their Catholicism known in public life. The former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was received into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2007. Catherine Pepinster, Editor of Tablet, notes: "The impact of Irish immigrants is one. There are numerous prominent campaigners, academics, entertainers (like Danny Boyle the most successful Catholic in showbiz owing to his film, Slumdog Millionaire), politicians and writers. But the descendants of the recusant families are still a force in the land."

Since the Council the Church in England has tended to focus on ecumenical dialogue with the Anglican Church rather than winning converts from it as in the past.

The spirit of ecumenism fostered by Vatican II resulted in 1990 with the Catholic Church in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, joining Churches Together in Britain and Ireland as an expression of the churches' commitment to work ecumenically. Recently, for example, a memorial was put up to St John Houghton and fellow Carthusian monks martyred at the London Charterhouse, 1535. Anglican priest, Geoffrey Curtis, campaigned for it with the current Archbishop of Canterbury's blessing. Also, in another ecumenical gesture, a plaque in Holywell Street, Oxford, now commemorates the Catholic martyrs of England. It reads: "Near this spot George Nichols, Richard Yaxley, Thomas Belson, and Humphrey Pritchard were executed for their Catholic faith, 5 July 1589." And at Lambeth Palace, in February 2009, the Archbishop of Canterbury hosted a reception to launch a book, Why Go To Church?, by Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP, one of Britain's best known religious and the former master of the Dominican Order. A large number of young Dominican friars attended. Fr Radcliffe said, "I don't think there have been so many Dominicans in one place since the time of Robert Kilwardby, the Dominican Archbishop of Canterbury in the 13th century."

The Church's principles of social justice influenced initiatives to tackle the challenges of poverty and social inclusion. In Southampton, Fr Pat Murphy O'Connor founded the St Dismas Society as an agency to meet the needs of ex-prisoners discharged from Winchester prison. Some of St Dismas Society's early members went on to help found the Simon Community in Sussex then in London. Their example gave new inspiration to other clergy, such as the Revd Kenneth Leech (CofE) of St Anne's Church, Soho who helped found the homeless charity Centrepoint, and the Revd Bruce Kenrick (Church of Scotland) who helped found the homeless charity Shelter. In 1986 Cardinal Basil Hume established the Cardinal Hume Centre to work with homeless young people, badly housed families and local communities to access accommodation, support and advice, education, training and employment opportunities.

In 2006 Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor instituted an annual Mass in Support of Migrant Workers at Westminster Cathedral in partnership with the ethnic chaplains of Brentwood, Southwark and Westminster.

Anglicanorum coetibus

Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham

In October 2009, following closed-circuit talks between some Anglicans and the Holy See, Pope Benedict made a relatively unconditional offer to accommodate disaffected Anglicans in the Church of England, enabling them, for the first time, to retain parts of their liturgy and heritage under Anglicanorum coetibus, while being in full communion with Rome. By April 2012 the ordinariate numbered about 1200, including five bishops and 60 priests. The ordinariate has recruited a group of aristocrats as honorary vice-presidents to help out. These include the Duke of Norfolk, the Countess of Oxford and Asquith and the Duchess of Somerset. Other vice-presidents include Lord Nicholas Windsor, Sir Josslyn Gore-Booth and the Squire de Lisle, whose ancestor Ambrose de Lisle was a 19th-century Catholic convert who advocated the corporate reunion of the Anglican Church with Rome. According to the group leader, Mgr Keith Newton, the ordinariate will "work on something with an Anglican flavour, but they are not bringing over any set of Anglican liturgy." The director of music at Westminster Abbey (Anglican), lay Catholic James O'Donnell, likens the ordinariate to a Uniate church or one of the many non-Latin Catholic rites, saying: "This is a good opportunity for us to remember that there isn't a one size fits all, and that this could be a good moment to adopt the famous civil service philosophy - 'celebrating diversity'." In May 2013, a former Anglican priest, Alan Hopes, was appointed the new Bishop of East Anglia, whose diocese includes the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Ethnic make-up

General statistics

Migration from Ireland in the 19th and 20th centuries and more recent Eastern European migration have significantly increased the numbers of Catholics in England and Wales. While figures for England and Wales alone are difficult to estimate, the ethnic make-up of the Catholic population in the UK (which includes Northern Irish as British) in 2008 was as follows :

White British 74.6%
White Eastern European 9.5%
White Irish 4.4%
White Other 3.9%
Black African 2.5%
Mixed other 1.9%
Afro-Caribbean/Other 1.7%
Asian 1.5%

The White Eastern European members are mainly from Poland, with smaller numbers from Lithuania, Latvia, and Slovakia.

Polish Catholic immigration

Polish-speaking Catholics first arrived in England in some numbers after the partitions of Poland during the 19th century. One of the most notable Poles at this time, who eventually settled in England, was Joseph Conrad. At the end of the Second World War, many Polish servicemen were unable to return to their homeland following the imposition of a communist regime hostile to their return, and the Polish Resettlement Corps was formed by the British government to ease their transition into British life. They were joined by several thousand Displaced Persons (DPs), many were their family members. This influx of Poles gave rise to the 1947 Polish Resettlement Act which allowed approximately 250,000 Polish Servicemen and their dependents, to settle in Britain. Many assimilated into existing Catholic congregations. According to the Polish Catholic Mission in England and Wales in 1948 the Catholic hierarchy in England Wales agreed the appointment of a vicar delegate, nominated by the Polish Episcopate, with ordinary power over the Polish clergy and laity throughout England and Wales with certain exceptions relating to marriage. Subsequently, whenever a Polish Catholic community emerges within England and Wales, the vicar delegate appoints a Polish priest to organise a local branch of the Polish Catholic Mission. A priest thus appointed is the priest in charge, not a parish priest. There are no Polish parishes or quasiparishes in England and Wales (in accordance with Canons 515 §1 and 516 §1) with the exception of the church at Devonia Road in London. A Polish Community is sometimes referred to as a "parish" but is not a parish in the canonical sense. Hence the Community is not a juridical person. The canonical juridical personality which represents the interests of all Polish Communities is vested in the Polish Catholic Mission.

Since the 2004 accession of Poland to the European Union there has been further large-scale Polish immigration to the UK. Currently the Polish Catholic Mission includes around 219 parishes and pastoral centres with 114 priests. The current rector of the Polish Catholic Mission is Rev.Stefan Wylężek. In Poland, the Polish Bishops Conference has a delegate with special responsibility for émigré Poles. The current postholder is Bishop Ryszard Karpiński. The Tablet reported in December 2007 that the Polish Catholic Mission says these parishes follow a pastoral programme set by the Polish conference of bishops and are viewed as "an integral part of the Polish church".

In December 2007 Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor said "I'm quite concerned that Poles are creating a separate Church in Britain – I would want them to be part of the Catholic life of this country. I would hope those responsible for the Polish Church here, and the Poles themselves, will be aware that they should become a part of local parishes as soon as possible when they learn enough of the language." Mgr Kukla stressed that the Polish Catholic Mission continues to have a "good relationship" with the hierarchy in England and Wales and said "Integration is a long process."

Significantly, the Polish Mission co-operated fully with the English hierarchy's recent research enquiry into the needs of migrants in London's catholic community. "The Ground of Justice" report by Francis Davis and Jolanta Stanke et al. Von Hügel Institute at St Edmund's College, Cambridge was commissioned by Archbishop Kevin McDonald of Southwark, and Bishop Thomas McMahon of Brentwood. 1000 people attending Mass in three London dioceses were surveyed using anonymous questionnaires available in Polish, Lithuanian, Chinese, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and English. The congregations were from mainstream Diocesan parishes, ethnic chaplaincies, and churches of the Polish Vicariate. The report findings described how 86% of eastern Europeans said the availability of Mass in their mother tongue was a reason for their choosing to worship in a particular church. The report's recommendations emphasised cooperation with key overseas bishops conferences, dioceses, and religious institutes on the recruitment and appointment of ethnic chaplains; the recognition of language skills as a legitimate training activity and cost for seminarians, clergy, parish volunteer and lay employees; and the consolidation of dispersed charitable funds for pastoral development and the poor in London.


The Catholic Church in England and Wales has five provinces: Birmingham, Cardiff, Liverpool, Southwark and Westminster. There are 22 dioceses which are divided into parishes (for comparison, the Church of England and Church in Wales currently have a total of 50 dioceses). In addition to these, there are four dioceses covering England and Wales for specific groups which are the Bishopric of the Forces, the Eparchy for Ukrainians, the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Great Britain and the Personal Ordinariate for former Anglicans.

The Catholic bishops in England and Wales come together in a collaborative structure known as the Bishops' Conference. Currently the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Gerard Nichols, is the President of the Bishops' Conference. For this reason in the global Catholic Church (outside England), he is de facto Primate of England though not in the eyes of English law and the established Church of England. Historically, the avoidance of the title of "Primate" was to eschew whipping up anti-Catholic tension, in the same way the bishops of the restored hierarchy avoided using current titles of Anglican sees (Archbishop of Westminster rather than "Canterbury" or "London"). However, the Archbishop of Westminster had certain privileges: he was the only metropolitan in the country until 1911 (when the archdioceses of Birmingham and Liverpool were created) and he has always acted as leader at meetings of the English bishops.

Although the bishops of the restored hierarchy took new titles, such as that of Westminster, they saw themselves very much in continuity with the pre-Reformation Church. Westminster in particular saw itself as the continuation of Canterbury, hence the similarity of the coat of arms of the two sees (with Westminster believing it has more right to it since it features the pallium, no longer given to Anglican archbishops). At the back of Westminster Cathedral is a list of Popes and, alongside this, a list of Catholic Archbishops of Canterbury beginning with Augustine of Canterbury and the year they received the pallium. After Cardinal Pole, the last Catholic incumbent of Canterbury, the names of the Catholic vicars apostolic or titular bishops (from 1685) are recorded and then the Archbishops of Westminster, in one unimpaired line, from 597 to the present, according to the Archdiocese of Westminster. To highlight this continuity or unimpaired line today, the installation rites of pre-Reformation Catholic Archbishops of Canterbury and earlier Archbishops of Westminster were used at the installation of the current Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Gerard Nichols. He became the forty-third of English cardinals since the 12th century.

Diocese Province Approximate Territory Cathedral Creation
01Diocese of Arundel and Brighton
Bishop of Arundel and Brighton
15Southwark Surrey and Sussex Cathedral Church of Our Lady and St Philip Howard 201965
(from Diocese of Southwark)
02Archdiocese of Birmingham
Archbishop of Birmingham
01Birmingham West Midlands, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Oxfordshire north of the Thames Metropolitan Cathedral Church and Basilica of St Chad 021850
(elevated to Archdiocese 1911)
03Diocese of Brentwood
Bishop of Brentwood
19Westminster Historic County of Essex
(including North-east Greater London)
Cathedral Church of St Mary and St Helen 171917
(from Archdiocese of Westminster)
04Archdiocese of Cardiff
Archbishop of Cardiff
04Cardiff Eastern Glamorgan, Herefordshire, Monmouthshire Metropolitan Cathedral Church of St David 031850
(originally as Diocese of Newport and Menevia; as Diocese of Newport from 1895; elevated to Archdiocese of Cardiff 1916)
05Diocese of Clifton
Bishop of Clifton
02Birmingham Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Wiltshire Cathedral Church of Ss Peter and Paul 041850
06Diocese of East Anglia
Bishop of East Anglia
20Westminster Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk Cathedral Church of St John the Baptist 211976
(from Diocese of Northampton)
07Diocese of Hallam
Bishop of Hallam
08Liverpool South Yorkshire, High Peak, North Derbyshire, Chesterfield, Bassetlaw Cathedral Church of St Marie 221980
(from Dioceses of Leeds and Nottingham)
08Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle
Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle
09Liverpool Tyne and Wear, Northumberland, County Durham Cathedral Church of St Mary 051850
(originally as Diocese of Hexham; as Hexham and Newcastle from 1861)
09Diocese of Lancaster
Bishop of Lancaster
10Liverpool Cumbria and Northern Lancashire Cathedral Church of St Peter 181924
(from Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle and Archdiocese of Liverpool)
10Diocese of Leeds
Bishop of Leeds
11Liverpool Historic West Riding of Yorkshire excluding South Yorkshire Cathedral Church of St Anne 131878
(from Diocese of Beverley)
11Archdiocese of Liverpool
Archbishop of Liverpool
07Liverpool Merseyside north of the Mersey, West Lancashire, Isle of Man Metropolitan Cathedral Church of Christ the King 061850
(elevated to Archdiocese 1911)
12Diocese of Menevia
Bishop of Menevia
05Cardiff Brecknockshire, Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Radnorshire and Western Glamorgan Cathedral Church of St Joseph 161898
(from Vicariate Apostolic of Wales)
13Diocese of Middlesbrough
Bishop of Middlesbrough
12Liverpool Historic North Riding of Yorkshire, historic East Riding of Yorkshire, York Cathedral Church of St Mary the Virgin 141878
(from Diocese of Beverley)
14Diocese of Northampton
Bishop of Northampton
21Westminster Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire north of the Thames Cathedral Church of St Mary and St Thomas 071850
15Diocese of Nottingham
Bishop of Nottingham
22Westminster Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Lincolnshire Cathedral Church of St Barnabas 081850
16Diocese of Plymouth
Bishop of Plymouth
16Southwark Cornwall, Devon, Dorset Cathedral Church of St Mary and St Boniface 091850
17Diocese of Portsmouth
Bishop of Portsmouth
17Southwark Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Berkshire and Oxfordshire south of the Thames, The Channel Islands Cathedral Church of St John the Evangelist 151882
(from Diocese of Southwark)
18Diocese of Salford
Bishop of Salford
13Liverpool Part of Greater Manchester, South-east Lancashire Cathedral Church of St John the Evangelist 101850
19Diocese of Shrewsbury
Bishop of Shrewsbury
03Birmingham Cheshire, Shropshire, the Wirral and Manchester south of the Mersey Cathedral Church of Our Lady Help of Christians and Saint Peter of Alcantara 111850
20Archdiocese of Southwark
Archbishop of Southwark
14Southwark Kent, Greater London south of the Thames Metropolitan Cathedral Church of St George 121850
(elevated to Archdiocese 1965)
21Archdiocese of Westminster
Archbishop of Westminster
18Westminster Hertfordshire, historic County of Middlesex (i.e. North-west Greater London) Metropolitan Cathedral Church of the Most Precious Blood 011850
22Diocese of Wrexham
Bishop of Wrexham
06Cardiff Anglesey, Caernarfonshire, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Merionethshire and Montgomeryshire Cathedral Church of Our Lady of Sorrows 241987
(from Diocese of Menevia)
23Eparchy of the Holy Family of London
Bishop Hlib Lonchyna
23Kiev–Galicia Great Britain Cathedral Church of the Holy Family in Exile 191957
(elevated to Eparchy 2013)
Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Great Britain

Mar Joseph Srampickal

Ernakulam-Angamaly Great Britain Syro-Malabar Cathedral of St Alphonsa 2016
24Bishopric of the Forces
Bishop Richard Moth
24Holy See HM Forces both in Britain and abroad Cathedral Church of St Michael and St George 231986
25Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham
Monsignor Keith Newton
25Holy See Former Anglican clergy, religious and laity resident in England, Wales and Scotland. Principal Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory 252011


Further information:Catholic Chaplaincies in England and Wales

Eastern Catholic rites

Wolverhampton Ukrainian Catholic Church
A Ukrainian Greek Catholic parish church in Wolverhampton, England

There exists the Apostolic Exarchate for Ukrainians which serves the 15,000 Ukrainian Greek Catholics in Great Britain, with a cathedral and various churches across the country.

The Lebanese Maronite Order (LMO) runs in England and Wales. The LMO is an order of the Maronite Catholic Church, serving Maronite Catholics in England and Wales. The Revd Augustine Aoun is the parish priest for Maronites. The LMO runs a few churches, for example Our Lady of Sorrows in Paddington and Our Lady of Lebanon in Swiss Cottage.

There are also Catholic chaplains of the Eritrean, Chaldean, Syriac, Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara, and Melkite Rites. For information about the Syro-Malabar chaplaincy within the Diocese of Westminster in London, see Syro-Malabar Catholic Church of London.

Mass in the Syro-Malabar rite is celebrated each Sunday in St Joseph's Catholic Church, New Zealand Road, Cardiff.

Adoption Controversy

On November 3, 2016, John Bingham reported in The Daily Telegraph that Cardinal Vincent Nichols officially acknowledged that the Catholic Church in England and Wales had pressured young, unmarried mothers in the country to put their children up for adoption in agencies linked to the Catholic Church throughout the decades following World War II and offered an apology.

Catholic saints of the United Kingdom

Saints and Doctors of the Church, notable and Pre-Reformation:

  • St. Alban - (d. 251 or 304), Martyr
  • St. David - (500-589), Monk, Bishop, and Teacher
  • Augustine of Canterbury - (d. 605), Professed Religious Priest of the Order of St. Benedict and Bishop
  • Padarn Early 6th century, Bishop
  • Bede - (672?-735), Professed Religious Priest of the Order of St. Benedict and Doctor of the Church
  • St. Anselm - (1033-1109), Professed Religious Priest of the Order of St. Benedict, Bishop, and Doctor of the Church
  • Thomas Becket - (1118-1170), Bishop and Martyr
  • Richard of Chichester - (1197-1253), Bishop

Saints from the period of the Reformation to the present:

  • John Fisher - (1469 - 1535), Bishop of Rochester; Cardinal
  • Thomas More - (1478 - 1535), Married Layperson of the Archdiocese of Westminster
  • John Houghton - (1487 - 1535), Professed Priest of the Carthusians
  • Robert Lawrence - (d. 1535), Professed Priest of the Carthusians
  • Augustine Webster - (d. 1535), Professed Priest of the Carthusians
  • Richard Reynolds - (d. 1535), Professed Priest of the Carthusians
  • John Stone - (d.1539), Professed Priest of the Augustinians
  • Cuthbert Mayne - (1544 - 1577), Priest of the Apostolic Vicariate of England
  • Edmund Campion - (1540 - 1581), Professed Priest of the Jesuits
  • Ralph Sherwin - (1550 - 1581), Priest of the Apostolic Vicariate of England
  • Alexander Briant - (1556 - 1581), Professed Priest of the Jesuits
  • John Paine - (d. 1582), Priest of the Apostolic Vicariate of England
  • Luke Kirby - (1549 - 1582), Priest of the Apostolic Vicariate of England
  • Richard Gwyn - (1537 - 1584), Married Layperson of the Apostolic Vicariate of England
  • Margaret Clitherow née Middleton - (1550 - 1586), Married Layperson of the Apostolic Vicariate of England
  • Margaret Ward - (d. 1588), Layperson of the Apostolic Vicariate of England
  • Edmund Gennings - (1567 - 1591), Priest of the Apostolic Vicariate of England
  • Swithun Wells - (1536 - 1591), Priest of the Apostolic Vicariate of England
  • Eustace White - (d. 1591), Priest of the Apostolic Vicariate of England
  • Polydore Plasden - (d. 1591), Priest of the Apostolic Vicariate of England
  • John Boste - (1543 - 1582), Priest of the Apostolic Vicariate of England
  • Robert Southwell - (1561 - 1595), Professed Priest of the Jesuits
  • Henry Walpole - (1558 - 1595), Professed Priest of the Jesuits
  • Philip Howard - (1557 - 1595), Married Layperson of the Apostolic Vicariate of England
  • John Jones - (1559 - 1598), Professed Priest of the Franciscan Friars Minor (Observants)
  • John Rigby - (d. 1600), Layperson of the Apostolic Vicariate of England
  • Anne Line née Higham - (1565 - 1601), Married Layperson of the Apostolic Vicariate of England
  • Nicholas Owen - (1550 - 1606), Professed Priest of the Jesuits
  • Thomas Garnet - (1575 - 1608), Professed Priest of the Jesuits
  • John Roberts - (1576 - 1610), Professed Priest of the Benedictines
  • John Almond - (1577 - 1612), Priest of the Apostolic Vicariate of England
  • Edmund Arrowsmith - (1585 - 1628), Professed Priest of the Jesuits
  • Edward Barlow - (1585 - 1641), Professed Priest of the Benedictines
  • Bartholomew Roe - (1583 - 1642), Professed Priest of the Benedictines
  • Henry Morse - (1595 - 1645), Professed Priest of the Jesuits
  • John Southworth - (1592 - 1654), Priest of the Apostolic Vicariate of England
  • William Plessington - (1637 - 1679), Priest of the Apostolic Vicariate of England
  • Philip Evans - (1645 - 1679), Professed Priest of the Jesuits
  • John Lloyd - (1630 - 1679), Priest of the Apostolic Vicariate of England
  • John Wall - (1620 - 1679), Professed Priest of the Franciscan Friars Minor (Recollects)
  • John Kemble - (1599 - 1679), Priest of the Apostolic Vicariate of England
  • David Lewis - (1616 - 1679), Professed Priest of the Jesuits
  • John Ogilvie - (1579 - 1615), Professed Priest of the Jesuits


  • Margaret Pole - (1473 – 1541), Martyr, Countess of Salisbury
  • Dominic Barberi - (1792 - 1849), Professed Priest of the Passionists
  • John Henry Newman - (1801 - 1890), Professed Priest of the Oratory, Theologian, Cardinal


  • Mary Potter - (1847 - 1913), Founder of the Little Company of Mary
  • Margaret Sinclair - (1900 - 1925), Professed Religious of the Poor Clare Colettine Nuns
  • Bridget Teresa McCrory - (1893 - 1984), Founder of the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm
  • Joan Ward - (1585 - 1645), Founder of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Loreto Sisters) and Congregatio Iesu

Servants of God

  • Elizabeth Prout - (1820 - 1864), Founder of the Sisters of the Cross and the Passion
  • George Spencer - (1799 - 1864), Professed Priest of the Passionists
  • Margaret Hallahan - (1802 - 1868), Founder of the Dominican Sisters of the English Congregation of Saint Catherine of Siena
  • Frances Taylor - (1832 - 1900), Founder of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God
  • Teresa Helena Higginson - (1844 - 1905), Layperson of the Archdiocese of Liverpool
  • Mary Janet Erskine Stuart - (1857 - 1914), Professed Religious of the Society of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Other Open Cause

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