Archbishop of Cardiff Peter Smith in Running to Become New Archbishop of Westminster

By Matt Withers
South Wales Echo
March 27, 2009

THE Archbishop of Cardiff, Peter Smith, has emerged as one of the favourites to become the top Roman Catholic in Wales and England.

As the current Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor prepares to step down from his post, the 65-year-old Cardiff Archbishop is being touted as a possible successor.

Viewed as a “safe pair of hands” by the Catholic Church and a good media performer, the Archbishop has acted as spokesman for the Church on sensitive and complex issues such as euthanasia and abortion. Bookmaker Paddy Power is currently taking bets on the next Archbishop of Westminster and the Archbishop of Cardiff is currently second favourite at 13-8.

Paddy Power spokesman Darren Haines said: “Money talks and I think Peter Smith has always been a front-runner. He’s always been popular with the pundits in the betting.

“He’s seen as appealing to quite a broad audience in the Church with his charisma. He’s also quite conservative, which appeals to the Vatican. They generally don’t want somebody too liberal, so that also wins him brownie points.

“The feeling was that he did have a high level of support around. In recent weeks, I think, that level of support might have dropped and I think that’s why he’s slipped back a bit compared to what it was in the summer. But I think he’s still seen as a front-runner.”

The Archbishop was born in Battersea, south-west London, and studied law at Exeter University. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1972.

Described as hugely popular and sociable with a reputation for plain speaking, the clergyman, known as a smoker, was made Archbishop of Cardiff in 2001 following the resignation of Archbishop John Ward amid the paedophile priests scandal.

In regard to sexual abuse cases, he declared that he “wanted to help people bind up the wounds and bring healing”. He had previously been Bishop of East Anglia. Only last weekend he made headlines after blaming the Pope’s press advisers for a series of public relations disasters. The archbishop said the Vatican’s press officers understood they had “to get their act together”.

His call for the church to “communicate in language people will understand” came at a time when there is no clear front-runner among the bishops to replace Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor.

He enjoyed a friendship with Rowan Williams when the latter led the Church in Wales and spoke fondly of his counterpart’s “mischievous sense of humour”.

The two could be reunited as the leaders of Britain’s largest Christian denominations if he is chosen from a crowded field of potential candidates for the top job.

Other names believed to be in the frame include Vincent Nicholas, Archbishop of Birmingham, Arthur Roche, Bishop of Leeds, and Malcolm McMahon, Bishop of Nottingham.


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