Feb. 16, 2000

(RNS) Pope John Paul II has named 67-year-old Bishop CormacMurphy-O'Connor of Arundel and Brighton to succeed the late CardinalBasil Hume as Archbishop of Westminster, the Vatican announced Tuesday(Feb. 15).

At a news conference in London, Murphy-O'Connor said he learned hewould be appointed by reading about it in the newspapers. Westminster isthe major archdiocese in Britain and its archbishop is considered thetop leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Vatican also announced that 54-year-old Bishop Vincent Nichols,auxiliary to Hume, will become the new bishop of Birmingham.

Murphy-O'Connor, one of Britain's leading ecumenists, was rector ofthe English College in Rome from 1971 until he was appointed bishop ofArundel and Brighton in 1977.

In 1982, the new archbishop became the Roman Catholic co-chairman ofthe second Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC II).He was also the chief Catholic observer at the 1988 Lambeth Conference,the meeting of all the world's Anglican bishops held every 10 years.

Murphy-O'Connor's appointment was warmly welcomed by the AnglicanArchbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, who last year conferred on him aLambeth Doctorate of Divinity, making him the first Roman Catholicbishop since the Reformation to be so honored.

"Bishop Murphy-O'Connor has worked tirelessly for many years forbetter ecumenical relations, and I value and appreciate his stamina, histenacity, and his shrewd ability to find a constructive way forward,"Carey said.

At his news conference, Murphy-O'Connor rejected being labeledeither liberal or conservative.

"If by liberal you mean, am I free and easy, am I open to any newthings that come along, the answer is no," he said. "I'm not that way. Ithink I'm open. But I am rooted in the tradition of the church."

"Am I a conservative? If by conservative you mean am I rigid,someone whose view is fundamentalist, no."