(RNS) Pope John Paul II has named 67-year-old Bishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Arundel and Brighton to succeed the late Cardinal Basil Hume as Archbishop of Westminster, the Vatican announced Tuesday (Feb. 15).
At a news conference in London, Murphy-O'Connor said he learned he would be appointed by reading about it in the newspapers. Westminster is the major archdiocese in Britain and its archbishop is considered the top 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 of the English College in Rome from 1971 until he was appointed bishop of Arundel and Brighton in 1977.
In 1982, the new archbishop became the Roman Catholic co-chairman of the 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 Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, who last year conferred on him a Lambeth Doctorate of Divinity, making him the first Roman Catholic bishop since the Reformation to be so honored.
"Bishop Murphy-O'Connor has worked tirelessly for many years for better ecumenical relations, and I value and appreciate his stamina, his tenacity, and his shrewd ability to find a constructive way forward," Carey said.
At his news conference, Murphy-O'Connor rejected being labeled either liberal or conservative.
"If by liberal you mean, am I free and easy, am I open to any new things that come along, the answer is no," he said. "I'm not that way. I think 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."