THE timing was immaculate - Catholic Bishop of Lancaster Bishop Michael Campbell was in Rome on official business during the election of new Pope Francis .
The Bishop was visiting English seminaries and was able to send a message home speaking of his delight at the election.
Describing the appointment as evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit to renew and enliven the Church, he said: “I’m also struck by the fact that Pope Francis I trained as a scientist, having a master’s degree in chemistry and was a professor of theology.
“Pope Francis I is the pope for the 21st century who can show the harmony between faith and reason.”
“What a wonderful week to be in Rome! I’m here as part of the small team of Bishops of England and Wales responsible for the oversight of the English Seminaries here: The Venerable English College and the Pontifical Beda College.
“I never fail to be impressed by the wonderful work of study and formation of the future priests of the Church that quietly goes on and is developed.”
“When he emerged on to the balcony above St Peter’s Square on Wednesday as Pope Francis, his humility was clear to all. None of us know what kind of papacy Pope Francis will give to us.
“But his record and history to date and his name give us some idea of what to expect. Those who know Pope Francis well personally say he is, above all, a Pastor. That his love for the poor makes him a champion of social justice and of protecting human rights and human freedom.”
Bishop Michael said it was an opportunity for renewal in the church - but that must be accompanied by conversion: “The election of Pope Francis is an invitation to join the Church in her works of charity, to live lives of selfless solidarity with the poor and with our fellow men.
“His election is an invitation to consider afresh the Gospel message, which speaks of liberation, freedom and hope. Today, and in every age, the Church must always be renewed. Pope Francis has reminded us of the Lord’s call to rebuild the Church.”