THE Archbishop of Liverpool has officially stood down from the post he held for the past 17 years.
The Vatican announced yesterday that the resignation of the Most Rev Patrick Kelly had been accepted.
It was one of the last acts of Pope Benedict XVI, who himself retires today as leader of the world’s 1.2bn Catholics.
The 74-year-old archbishop announced last month he had submitted his resignation after he suffered a slight stroke in December 2012.
He will continue to live at Archbishop’s House, his official residence in Mossley Hill, until his successor is appointed.
He will also preside at this evening’s Mass at the city’s Metropolitan cathedral to mark the retirement of the Pope and the annual Mass of Chrism during holy week on March 27.
The Most Rev Patrick Kelly was installed as Archbishop of Liverpool in July 1996 after 12 years as Bishop of Salford.
He was ordained on February 18, 1962 in Rome and last year religious leaders from around the world gathered in the city to celebrate the Archbishop’s 50th year as an ordained priest.
The milestone was marked at the annual civic mass and service of thanksgiving at the Metropolitan cathedral.
In a pastoral letter read in all churches and chapels of the Archdiocese of Liverpool on Sunday, the archbishop reflected on the “dual retirement” of both himself and the Holy Father.
From now on the Most Rev Patrick Kelly’s official title is “Archbishop Emeritus”.
Under the Code of Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church a bishop has to submit his resignation to the Pope at the age of 75.
It is not known how long it will take to appoint a successor to the archbishop but the process could be lengthened even more given the vacuum created by Pope Benedict’s shock resignation earlier this month.
During his 17 years as Archbishop of Liverpool the Most Rev Patrick Kelly has not been afraid to speak out on controversial issues of the day – including opposing euthanasia and the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos for medical research.
He has also been a frequent visitor to the Holy Land, carrying out humanitarian work and calling for peace in the troubled region.
Patrick Kelly was born in Morecambe, Lancashire, and was installed as the eighth Archbishop of Liverpool following the death of his predecessor Derek Worlock.
Upon his succession the new Archbishop continued the Most Rev Derek Warlock’s policy of building bridges with the city’s Anglican community, first with Bishop David Sheppard and then with Bishop James Jones.
The Archbishop successfully underwent hip replacement surgery in 2011 after which he resumed his pastoral duties until his slight stroke at the end of last year.
In a statement issued yesterday, the archbishop said: “Last Sunday in a letter read at all Masses I reflected on the retirement of the Holy Father and my own.
“ I recalled the thanksgiving in which many shared on the occasion of my Golden Jubilee as a priest on February 18 2012.
“All that remains to be said will find its place within the Mass to be celebrated on Thursday evening at 7pm in the Metropolitan Cathedral which will accompany the Holy Father’s moment of retirement; and again in the great annual diocesan celebration called the Mass of Chrism in the cathedral on Wednesday of Holy Week, March 27, at 7.30pm.”
The Pope has appointed the Rt Rev Tom Williams, Auxiliary Bishop of Liverpool, as Apostolic Administrator – in charge of day-to-day running and pastoral leadership of the Archdiocese of Liverpool – while the archbishop’s position remains vacant.