Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark

Archdiocese of Southwark
Archidioecesis Southvarcensis

Coat of arms of the Archdiocese of Southwark
Country England
Territory The London boroughs south of the Thames, the county of Kent and the Medway Unitary Authority
Ecclesiastical province Southwark
Metropolitan Southwark
Deaneries 20
Area 3,000 km2 (1,200 sq mi)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2010)
383,265 (8.6%)
Parishes 181
Denomination Roman Catholic
Rite Latin Rite
Established 29 September 1850
Cathedral St George's Cathedral, Southwark
Secular priests 274
Current leadership
Pope Francis
Metropolitan Archbishop Peter Smith
Auxiliary Bishops
Emeritus Bishops

Dioceses of the Province of Southwark. The Archdiocese of Southwark is the easternmost
St George's, Southwark

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark (Br [ˈsʌðɨk])[1] is a Latin Church Roman Catholic archdiocese in England. The archepiscopal see is headed by the Archbishop of Southwark. The archdiocese is part of the Metropolitan Province of Southwark, which covers the South of England. The cathedral church is St George's Cathedral, Southwark.


The archdiocese covers the London boroughs south of the Thames, the county of Kent and the Medway Unitary Authority.


The diocese is divided into three pastoral areas and 20 deaneries, each of which contain a number of parishes:

Kent Pastoral Area: 50 parishes

South East Pastoral Area: 66 parishes

South West Pastoral Area: 64 parishes


Southwark was one of the dioceses established at the restoration of Catholic hierarchical structures in 1851 by Pope Pius IX. The areas which now comprise the Diocese of Portsmouth and the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton subsequently separated.

Original cathedral

The Papists Act of 1778 brought a certain limited freedom to those of the faith. Priests no longer moved in fear of imprisonment. Roman Catholics could run their own schools and could once more acquire property. In protest against the act, Lord George Gordon, on 2 June 1780, gathered a large crowd in St George's Fields to march on Westminster. Refused a hearing, they became violent and so began a week of burning, plundering and killing in which many Roman Catholic chapels and houses were destroyed. There is a legend that the high altar of the cathedral stands on the spot where the march began.

In 1786 there was only one Roman Catholic chapel in the whole of south London, located at Bermondsey. It was then that the Reverend Thomas Walsh, a Douai priest, for £20 a year hired a room in Bandyleg Walk (near where the Southwark fire station now stands). Within two years, the numbers attending the little chapel had increased so rapidly that a new building became essential. In 1793 a large chapel dedicated to St George was opened in the London Road at a cost of £2,000. It was designed by James Taylor of Weybridge, Surrey. According to tradition it was here that the first High Mass was celebrated in London, outside the chapels of ambassadors, since the time of King James II of England. The occasion was the Solemn Requiem sung for the repose of the soul of Louis XVI of France, who was executed on 21 January 1793.

It was to St George's that the Reverend Thomas Doyle came in 1820, when the congregation stood at around 7,000. He became the first chaplain in 1829, when the Catholic Emancipation Act removed nearly all the legal disabilities which Catholics had suffered for 250 years. As Doyle's congregation increased to 15,000 by 1829, the idea grew in his mind of a great church with the dimensions of a long and lofty cathedral. By 1839 enough money had been collected to make a start and the present site in St George's Fields (then an open space) was purchased for £3,200.

Augustus Pugin, the noted architect of the Gothic Revival, was commissioned to design the church. Lack of funds, however, prevented the committee from accepting his first design of a cruciform cathedral on a grand scale and less ambitious plans had to be prepared. Work began on the old cathedral in 1840, the foundation stone being laid on 8 September. The church was solemnly opened by Bishop Nicholas Wiseman (later Cardinal Wiseman) on 4 July 1848. To mark the occasion, Pope Pius IX sent a golden chalice and paten as a gift.

Two years later, Pope Pius restored the English Roman Catholic hierarchy and St George's was chosen as the cathedral church of the new Roman Catholic Diocese of Southwark, which was to cover the whole of southern England. For the next half-century, until the opening of Westminster Cathedral, St George's was the centre of Roman Catholic life in London. Thomas Grant was made the first Roman Catholic Bishop of Southwark; Doyle became the provost and administrator and remained so until his death on 6 June 1879. He is buried in the crypt. The new cathedral was consecrated by Bishop Butt on 7 November 1894 and on that day every year the feast of the dedication of the cathedral is celebrated throughout the diocese.


As of 10 June 2010, the current archbishop is Peter Smith. His predecessor, Kevin McDonald, led the archdiocese until 4 December 2009, when he submitted his resignation in keeping with canon law which provides for the retirement of a diocesan bishop on grounds of ill health or for other grave reasons. There are three auxiliary bishops: John Hine, titular Bishop of Beverley; Patrick Lynch SS.CC., titular bishop of Castrum; and Paul Hendricks, titular Bishop of Ross and Cromarty. These bishops have particular pastoral responsibility in Kent, South East London and South West London respectively.[2]


The Southwark archdiocese makes up part of the Catholic Association Pilgrimage.


The archdiocese is the foundation responsible for over 170 Voluntary Aided and Voluntary Controlled schools in the diocese and is the sponsor of two schools under the English academy programme.

See also


  1. "Southwark", in The Columbia Lippincott Gazetteer of the World (1952), New York: Columbia University Press.
  2. "Welcome to Southwark". Retrieved 2016-11-17.

Coordinates: 51°29′52″N 0°06′29″W / 51.4979°N 0.1080°W / 51.4979; -0.1080

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