Bishop elect Christopher Whitehead

A new Bishop for the Diocese of Plymouth

A new Bishop for the Diocese of Plymouth
On Friday 15th December 2023, His Holiness Pope Francis appointed Canon Christopher Whitehead as the Tenth Bishop of the Diocese of Plymouth…

Bishop-elect Christopher Whitehead replaces the former Bishop of Plymouth, the Most Reverend Mark O’Toole who moved to Wales in June 2022 when he was appointed Archbishop of Cardiff and Bishop of Menevia. On hearing the news of his appointment Bishop-elect Christopher said:

“With complete trust in the gentle, guiding hands of the Lord, I take up the appointment that our Holy Father Pope Francis has entrusted to me. This is not something I could have ever imagined and willingly give myself to where the Lord has called me to serve and with all I have to offer.

“Like my own diocese of Clifton, Plymouth is such a beautiful part of this country, and I am truly happy to have the opportunity to make my home among its great people. Clifton has been my home for the 54 years of my life, and it is where I learned to walk in the ways of faith and where my priestly vocation was born and nurtured. For that I will be eternally thankful. So too for the teachers and guides who have shown me the way, the priests and religious who have inspired me, and all who have supported me with their love and prayers. I am where I am because of their love, their witness, their example, and their kindness.

“As I begin this challenging and exciting journey in the service of God’s Church and the people of the Diocese of Plymouth, I ask for the prayers of the children, women, and men of my new diocese. I need these and the prayers of my brother priests, and the religious communities, and all people of good will. Please pray that I may have the gifts of courage, wisdom, prudence and discernment, as your servant.

“Naturally I feel apprehensive about the ministry now entrusted to me, and so I place myself in the loving hands of our God, knowing he is always faithful. I thank God for his merciful love and pray that God’s most Holy Spirit may enable me to be faithful in all I do, remaining ever attentive to the Gospel and his love. I pray that I be a gentle shepherd to God’s people and a loving father to those I have been called to serve – wanting to ensure that the Church in the Diocese of Plymouth continues to be a safe and welcoming space for all.”

Biography of Bishop-elect Christopher Whitehead

Born in Gloucester in August 1969 to parents Leslie and Chris-ne, Bishop-elect Christopher Whitehead is the oldest of three siblings, with brothers Craig and Anthony. His youngest brother, Anthony, lives in the Diocese of Plymouth.

His local parish, St Peter’s, was to lie at the heart of his education and formation. He was baptised, made his first Holy Communion, was confirmed, and ordained in St Peter’s Church.

Bishop-elect Christopher attended St Peter’s Catholic Infant, Primary and Secondary School before studying for the priesthood at St Mary’s, Oscott, after leaving school in 1987.

On 30th November 1993, he was ordained deacon at St Peter’s Catholic Church, and then seven months later on 1st July 1994, was ordained priest by Bishop Mervyn Alexander.

The Bishop-elect has never forgotten the guiding hand of Bishop Alexander, who he says offered him the opportunity to grow as a man of faith. It was his inspiration, encouragement, and example of gentleness, patience, and love that drew him towards the priesthood.

He was to serve the Diocese of Clifton as a priest for almost three decades, his first post as a curate at St Mary’s, Bath, from 1994-1996. His next appointment was to Holy Family parish in Swindon, before serving at St Mary-on-the-Quay in Bristol from 1996–1998. During this -me, he was also chaplain to University Hospital Bristol.

Having served at the Cathedral as an assistant priest for two years until 2000, he was appointed to his first parish St George’s in Warminster.

Bishop-elect Christopher has also served the diocesan curia in a number of important roles: Director of Adult Education (to 2018), Director of Ongoing Formation of Priests (until 2020), Director of Formation for the Permanent Diaconate (to present).

In 2018, he returned to parish ministry at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Stroud, before moving to his present post as parish priest of St John the Evangelist in Bath, a year later in 2019. He was appointed a member of the Cathedral Chapter in 2020.

Bishop-elect Christopher has a great love and appreciation for art, and in his spare -me enjoys going to the cinema and sharing food with friends and family.

He will be ordained and installed the tenth Bishop of Plymouth in the Cathedral Church of Saint Mary and Saint Boniface in the city.