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Former Bishop of Chester received into Roman Catholic Church

04 February 2022

Chris McAndrew 

A FORMER Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster, was received into the Roman Catholic Church last year, it was confirmed this week.

The news follows the reception of Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, a former Bishop of Rochester, into the RC Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham (News, 15 October 2021), and the resignation of the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Rt Revd Jonathan Goodall, to be received into the RC Church (News, 10 September 2021).

Dr Forster retired as Bishop in September 2019, aged 69, after more than 22 years in post (News, 3 May 2019). Concerns about his handling of safeguarding matters had been raised, and, before his retirement, he delegated all safeguarding responsibilities to the Suffragan Bishop of Birkenhead at that time, the Rt Revd Keith Sinclair (News, 5 April 2019).

Dr Forster and his wife have moved to a house in Scotland, which has been under construction for several years. It is understood that he was received in Scotland.

Dr Forster was a long-time supporter of women’s ordination, and, in 2014, the diocese of Chester became the first English diocese to have a woman bishop after the Rt Revd Libby Lane was appointed Bishop of Stockport (News, 12 December 2014). But, in the preceding years, Dr Forster raised concerns about the Church’s approach to the question of women bishops, with particular regard to its effect on ecumenism.

In 2006, he was critical of the Rochester report on women bishops (by Dr Michael Nazir-Ali) for failing to devote enough attention to Roman Catholic objections or to seek the view of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC). He was critical of the creation of Provincial Episcopal Visitors, and, in 2012, raised concerns about “effectively destroying the sacramental unity of the episcopate”, drawing on comments made to the House of Bishops by Cardinal Walter Kasper (Comment, 9 November 2012), who was then President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

A former member of the English Anglican-Roman Catholic Committee, he noted a “drift” in ecumenical relations “from a vision of full visible unity to an essentially debased vision of reconciled diversity”. It was “astonishing” that ARCIC had not produced work on the ordination of women, he said.

Ordained in 1980, Dr Forster served as a senior tutor at St John’s College, Durham, before becoming Vicar of Beverley Minster in 1992. He opposed the passage of legislation enabling same-sex marriage (News, 7 June 2013), and, in 2015, wrote a critical response to Pope Francis’s “naïve” encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’ (Comment, 17 July 2015). Until 2019, he reviewed regularly for the Church Times.

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