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Archdruid-elect says top Catholic appointment is 'crassly insensitive' ARCHBISHOP-ELECT: Vatican's selection of Bishop of East Anglia to replace John Aloysius Ward is greeted with derision by head of the Gorsedd.

Byline: TOBY MASON

THE Archdruid-elect has mounted an extraordinary attack on the Vatican for appointing an English-speaking Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff.

Dr Robyn Lewis said the decision by Rome to appoint the Bishop of East Anglia, the Most Reverend Peter Smith to the top job in the Roman Catholic Church in Wales is "crassly insensitive" and compared it to the appointment of John Redwood as Welsh Secretary.

His intervention indicates that hard-line campaigners are even prepared to take on institutions of the size and influence of the Vatican in their fight to maintain the language.

Dr Lewis, whose appointment was announced at the National Eisteddfod in Denbigh this year, makes it clear that, apart from the language issue, the personal qualities of the Archbishop-elect make him "manifestly suited" to his new post.

But he has launched a vicious attack on the Catholic hierarchy which appointed him.

"In this new century, one would have expected the Church to have required fluent Welsh as a precondition of appointment to its highest office in Wales, " he said.

"So far as we are able to tell at this stage, the appointment of a monoglot Englishman - and I use the word "monoglot" advisedly, though the Archbishop-elect is doubtless polyglot in several other tongues, ancient and modern - seems to show a crass insensitivity on the part of those responsible for it.

"It also perpetuates the de facto recognition of Wales as part of England, so far as the Catholic Church is concerned.

"Both Ireland and Scotland have long been proudly separate in these matters. Does Rome not yet know that Wales is now a devolved country?"

The Archbishop-elect was appointed by the Vatican last month to replace Archbishop Emeritus John Aloysius Ward, who was asked by the Pope to resign.

The new Archbishop-elect has made no secret of his lack of knowledge of Wales, introducing himself at a press conference as "a stranger in a foreign land".

But Dr Lewis said last night that although the Archbishop-elect's statement represented "a declaration of intent", he questioned his knowledge of Wales and said he should learn Welsh in order to do the job properly.

However, he praised the efforts of a number of Catholic bishops and priests to learn Welsh in recent years, including Bishop Daniel Mullins and Bishop Edwin Regan, both Irishmen who have learned Welsh after arriving here.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 3, 2001
Words:393
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