Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Westminster

Archdiocese of Westminster
Archidioecesis Vestmonasteriensis

Coat of arms of the archdiocese
Country England
Territory Greater London boroughs north of the Thames and west of Waltham Forest and Newham, plus the districts of Staines and Sunbury-on-Thames and the county of Hertfordshire.
Ecclesiastical province Westminster
Metropolitan Westminster
Deaneries 23
Area 3,634 km2 (1,403 sq mi)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2010)
476,647 (10.1%)
Parishes 216
Denomination Roman Catholic
Rite Latin Rite
Established 29 September 1850
Cathedral Westminster Cathedral
Secular priests 366
Current leadership
Pope Francis
Metropolitan Archbishop Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Auxiliary Bishops Rt Rev. John Sherrington
Rt Rev. Nicholas Hudson
Rt Rev. Paul McAleenan
Rt Rev. John Wilson
Vicar General Very Rev. Mgr Martin Hayes
Emeritus Bishops Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster is an archdiocese of the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church in England, historically however it has always been styled the Diocese of Westminster. The archdiocese consists of all of London north of the River Thames and west of the River Lea, together with the borough of Spelthorne and the county of Hertfordshire, which lies immediately to London's north.

The diocese is led by the Archbishop of Westminster, who serves as pastor of the mother church, Westminster Cathedral, as well as the metropolitan bishop of the Metropolitan Province of Westminster. Since the re-establishment of the English Catholic dioceses in 1850 each Archbishop of Westminster, including the incumbent, Archbishop Vincent Gerard Nichols, has been created a cardinal by the Pope in consistory, often as the only cardinal in England. It is also customary for the Archbishop of Westminster to be elected President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales providing a degree of a formal direction for the other English bishops and archbishops. However he is not formally a primate, though has special privileges conferred by the Papal Bull Si qua es. The diocese is one of the smallest dioceses in England and Wales in geographical area, but the largest in terms of Catholic population and priests.[1] It is legally established as a diocese, though canonically an archdiocese.

The suffragan sees of Westminster are the dioceses of Brentwood, East Anglia, Northampton and Nottingham.


The diocese essentially covers the same region as the Church of England Diocese of London as it was before the English Reformation until 1850, adopting, like most dioceses across England, an alternative name (originally because of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act 1851) but based on the centuries-old divisions of the country.[2] The archdiocese effectively survived the period of Catholic oppression in English history as a missionary territory established by canons accepted by Rome in 1622 as the Apostolic Vicariate of England which was in public law pronounced in England and Wales illegal as counter to the established church.

The mostly clandestine apostolic vicariate covering the country was divided so that the Apostolic Vicariate of London District formed on 30 January 1688 coinciding with a degree of freedoms. By decree of Pope Pius IX this entity gained its elevation to the rank of a metropolitan archdiocese on 29 September 1850.


On 3 April 2009, it was announced that the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, would become the 11th Archbishop of Westminster.[3] Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, who was installed as tenth Archbishop of Westminster on 22 March 2000 and was elevated to the rank of cardinal priest of the title of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva by Pope John Paul II on 21 February 2001, became archbishop emeritus. This followed Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor announcement on 9 July 2007 that, in accordance with the age limit of 75 years prescribed for bishops in the Code of Canon Law, he submitted his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI. He further announced that the Pope had asked him to continue in his pastoral ministry as archbishop beyond the age limit until further provision was made.

The archbishop is usually assisted by four auxiliary bishops, each with specific areas of responsibility within the administration of the archdiocese. One of the auxiliary bishops serves as chancellor and moderator of the metropolitan curia; one as vicar for the clergy; one for pastoral affairs; and one for education and formation.

The Metropolitan Curia and Chancery Offices are located at Vaughan House, outside Westminster Cathedral in central London. The diocesan seminary, Allen Hall, is located in Chelsea, West London, and (with Ushaw College) is a direct descendant of the seminary of Douai College, France.


Liturgical and pastoral life

Westminster Cathedral is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster.

Liturgy in the diocese is primarily based around the Revised Roman Rite promulgated by Pope Paul VI now in its third edition. However, as might be expected from a city as cosmopolitan as London, there is a great diversity in the liturgy as celebrated by Catholics. The Latin Mass Society arranges liturgy according to the 1962 Missal with episcopal approval. The Ukrainian Rite Catholics have a strong presence in the diocese with their own cathedral in Binney Street close to Bond Street. There is a Lebanese Maronite community based at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Cirencester Street in West London; a Melkite community in Pimlico, at St Barnabas' Church of England church; an Ethiopian Catholic church, Our Lady Queen of Heaven, in Queensway West London; an Eritrean Catholic church, St Aidan of Lindisfarne, in East Acton; a Chaldean Catholic church, St Anne's, in Laxton Place and a Belarusian Catholic church in Holden Avenue in North London. There are also a large number of masses for the expatriate Polish community; as well as French, German, Spanish and Italian language churches.

The diocese is also responsible for many chaplaincies, including Heathrow Airport, hospitals and prisons. See St. George's Interdenominational Chapel, Heathrow Airport for more information about the Heathrow Airport Latin-rite Catholic chaplaincy.

There are a large number of religious communities in the diocese. Religious orders of men include: the Assumptionists at Bethnal Green, Hitchin and Burnt Oak; the Augustinians at Hammersmith and Hoxton; the Augustinian Recollects at Kensal New Town, Kensington and Wembley; the Benedictines at Ealing Abbey and Cockfosters; the Carmelites at Finchley East; Discalced Carmelites at Kensington; the Christian Brothers at Twickenham; the missionary Columban Fathers at Hampstead; the Dominicans at Haverstock Hill; the Franciscans at Pimlico; the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement in Westminster; the Holy Ghost Fathers at New Barnett and Northwood; and the Passionists at Highgate. The Jesuits have a large presence in London with communities in Mayfair (at Farm Street), Kensington, Kilburn, Osterley, Southall, Stamford Hill, Swiss Cottage and Willesden Green. The Oratorians are based at the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Kensington, which is popularly known as the Brompton Oratory and is the largest church in the diocese after Westminster Cathedral.

Religious communities of women include the Carmelites at Golders Green and Ware; the Poor Clares in Barnet; the Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Victories at the cathedral; the Ursulines of Jesus at Hoxton, Kingsland and Stamford Hill; the Dominicans at Bushey, Cricklewood, Ealing, Edgware, Harpenden, Harrow on the Hill, Haverstock Hill, Hemel Hempstead, Osterley, Stevenage and Pinner. The Institute of the BVM is located in Swiss Cottage, Acton, Osterley, Redbourn and St Albans. The Sisters of Mercy are located at the cathedral, Acton East, Bethnal Green, Bow, Clapton Park, Commercial Road, Cricklewood, Feltham, Hampton Hill, Hillingdon, Kensal, Newtown, Marylebone Road, St Albans, St John's Wood, Twickenham and Underwood Road. The Servants of the Mother of God at Bayswater, Hampton and Somers Town.

The diocese is involved in both the independent and state school sectors. Some 159 state and 10 independent primary schools are run by the diocese along with 42 state and 4 independent secondary schools. There are also a further five independent primary / secondary and special schools including the Choristers school attached to the cathedral.

Music in the diocese is as diverse as the communities represented in it, but the all male cathedral choir is reputedly one of the best in the country [4][5] and sings at all chief masses in the cathedral as well as the daily divine offices. There are several choirs that specialise in Gregorian Chant and a Charismatic group centred on the diocesan seminary at Allen Hall.


The diocese is divided into 24 deaneries and 217 parishes:

In London: 156 parishes

Far South-West: 11 parishes

In Hertfordshire: 50 parishes

Notes and references

  1. no specific other locations are in the Cathedral Deanery, see instead Westminster Deanery below
  1. 1 2 "Our Diocese...". Diocese of Westminster.
  2. Brady, William Maziere (1877). Annals of the Catholic hierarchy in England and Scotland, A.D. 1585-1876. London: John Mozley Stark.
  3. Damian Thompson (2 April 2009). "Archbishop Vincent Nichols is the new leader of Catholics in England and Wales, sources confirm". The Telegraph.
  4. Lindsay Koob (4 June 2010). "The world's finest academic choir takes its audience to choral heaven". Charleston City Paper. Retrieved 14 December 2010.
  5. Tom Hall (12 May 2003). "Palestrina: Westminster Cathedral Choir". The Journal (Newcastle, England). Reviews.

See also

Video clips

Coordinates: 51°29′46″N 0°08′23″W / 51.4960°N 0.1396°W / 51.4960; -0.1396

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