May 25 2013 Latest news:
The new Archbishop of Canterbury The Most Revd Justin Welby comes to Norwich where he was escorted by the Bishop of Norwich, Rt Revd Graham James, at the Forum, through the streets of the city and during his visit to Norwich Cathedral. With former bishop Rt Revd David Leake(centre) PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY.
Friday, March 15, 2013
A retired bishop from North Norfolk has spoken of his friendship with the newly-elected Pope Francis.
The Rt Rev David Leake regularly met with Jorge Bergoglio while Anglican Bishop of Argentina, and described him as an unassuming character who, as the first Jesuit pope, could bring a spirit of inclusivity to his leadership of the world’s 1.2bn Roman Catholics.
“Someone said he’s the non-smiling cardinal, but I’d like to think he’s got a smile in his heart if he hasn’t got one on his face,” said Bishop David, 77.
“I remember on one occasion I met him in front of the Casa Rosada [the government palace] in Buenos Aires and he was just standing there like any other of his clergy would be.
“I didn’t recognise him, and asked him who he was. He said: ‘I’m your neighbour, I’m just round the corner,’ because his cathedral was not far from ours. When he described himself just as ‘a neighbour’, that summed up his relationship.”
He said Cardinal Bergoglio had eschewed the Archbishop’s palace and staff in favour of a small flat next door, where he cooked for himself.
Bishop David’s parents emigrated from East Runton to Argentina in 1926, and he was born in the country.
He came to England to attend theological college and was ordained, eventually serving as Anglican Bishop of Argentina between 1990 and 2002. He returned to live in East Runton after his retirement.
Bishop David admitted he had been “surprised” at the appointment and said the Pope had health problems, though he did not expect them to restrict him in his role.
He added the Cardinal Bergoglio he knew was “very learned, very astute”, but a humble man with simple tastes.
“I knew him socially,” said Bishop David. “In the year 2000 we had a symbolic washing of feet in the Plaza de Mayo, and I did it with him. We knew each other quite well.”
He added: “He was a basic, simple guy who you wouldn’t even turn round to look at again in the street.”
Bishop David said he had once been asked to pray with Cardinal Bergoglio as “a bishop in the Church of God”, something which demonstrated his openness to other Christian denominations.
“I think if that spirit continues in an ecumenical way it could be very good for our church,” he said.
“It’s been said he’s not a traditionalist, but he is – when it comes to married priests, gay marriage, women’s ordination, Roman Catholic celibacy, those are non-negotiable and will remain as solids within the Roman Catholic Church.”
Bishop David added that as men who were born in Argentina, both he and the pope regarded the Falkland Islands as the Malvinas.
“It is not something we talked about often but we were both Argentine-born and throughout our education it was ingrained in us that the islands are Argentinian,” he said.
“That belief will persist for both of us to this day, although we may believe there are better diplomatic means which could be pursued.”