A RETIRED Anglican bishop has converted to become Roman Catholic – only weeks after stepping down from his Newcastle post.
The former Assistant Bishop of Newcastle Paul Richardson, who predicted the death of the Church of England, has crossed over to Rome.
Just weeks after retiring from the senior clergy position for the city he has moved to London and is a regular worshipper at St George’s Cathedral in Southwark.
And his move has come with the blessing of his Anglican colleagues.
Mr Richardson has been a clergyman for almost 37 years but has never been one to keep tight lipped over his thoughts.
He hit the headlines in June 2008 when he backed a controversial display of graphic images of Jesus, by American artist David Kinsey, which shocked Christians across Tyneside. And he publicly said he would have bought one, if it wasn’t for the £3,000 price tag.
Last summer he claimed that the fall in church marriages and baptisms suggested that Britain was no longer a Christian nation, and predicted the end of the Church of England as the established religion within a generation. Ordained in 1972, he spent much of his ministry overseas. He held the Newcastle post from 1998 until the end of last year.
However, Mr Richardson has denied his religious conversion was influenced by the Church of England’s move towards ordaining women bishops, which many traditionalists do not agree with.
He said: “I was received into full communion with the Catholic church in January. It’s nothing to do with the ordination of women, it’s really a journey I’ve been on for some time. It’s just like coming home.”
Right Reverend Martin Wharton, Bishop of Newcastle, said: “I was not surprised to hear that the bishop Paul Richardson was received into the Roman Catholic Church on January 25, the day the church celebrates the conversion of St Paul.
“His move is not due to recent events in the Church of England, rather it is the direction in which he has been moving for many years.
“Bishop Paul retired from his ministry in Newcastle towards the end of last year, having served this diocese faithfully for the last 11 years.
“We wish him well for all that lies ahead in his new spiritual home.”
In 2008 Mr Richardson spoke out about the Christ-inspired art exhibition Holy **** held at Quayside gallery Lazarides, which featured colour prints of Jesus decorated with squiggles, stripes, and swirls, like a small child’s scrawl. The collection showed Jesus as a Muslim woman, a 70s hippie and a member of heavy-metal band Kiss. In some paintings, Jesus appears to be covered in dripping blood. While an accompanying slide show featured a smiling photo of Osama bin Laden.
But casting his eye over the collection of paintings the holy man urged Geordies to stay open-minded.
At the time he said: “I liked the exhibition and didn’t find any of it offensive, but I’m sure there will be people out there who want to complain. It is very graphic, but as far as I can see it’s just a mixture of Sunday school images of Christ and pop art.”
Anglo-Catholics in the Church of England are preparing to decide whether to remain or cross over to Rome under the terms of an unprecedented offer to Anglicans made by the Vatican last year.