By Bishop Philip Egan - May 17th, 2023 | Posted in News No comments
This Friday, 19th May 2023, is the Feast of the Dedication of our Cathedral Church of St. John the Evangelist here in Portsmouth. It is in fact the 141st anniversary of the formation of our Diocese of Portsmouth, for it was on that day in 1882 that Pope Leo XIII created the Diocese of Portsmouth from the western portion of the Diocese of Southwark (founded in 1850). Southwark had become too large for one bishop, extending as it did from London to Bournemouth, and from Oxford to Dover and over to the Channel Islands. The obvious place for the Cathedral of our Diocese and the curia was Winchester, but the Ecclesiastical Titles Act did not allow a Catholic diocese to take the same name as an Anglican one. So, plans were drawn up to establish the new see at Southampton, with St. Joseph’s Bugle Street as the pro-Cathedral. However, the construction of a large parish church in the middle of Portsmouth had begun, and so it was decided to make that the future Cathedral instead. Bishop John Vertue (1826–1900) was the first bishop of the new Diocese. He was consecrated by Cardinal Manning on 25th July 1882 and on 10th August 1882, the new Cathedral opened. Bishop Vertue had c. 70 priests and 40 missions. He was succeeded in 1900 by Bishop John Cahill, his Vicar General, and during his time, a number of religious orders established houses in the Diocese. Thus in 1901, Benedictines from Solesmes settled on the Isle of Wight at Quarr, and Benedictine nuns at Ryde. Benedictine monks from St. Edmund’s in Douai, France, arrived in Upper Woolhampton shortly after this and in 1903 they founded Douai Abbey.

This Friday, let us thank God for the gift of our Cathedral and our Diocese, and please pray for us all and, not least, for me too.