In 2012, he was responsible for a million cards being distributed for Catholics to carry as “a daily reminder of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ,” and an encouragement to share their faith. Later that year he called upon Catholics to pause for prayer at 3pm on the first Friday of every month as a public expression of their faith. “Whatever you are doing,” he said, “as your responsibilities allow, stop, perhaps close your eyes, bow your head and prayerfully and silently meditate on the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross out of love for you and everyone.”
Following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI in 2013, Bishop Conry said that had it been up to them, the bishops of England and Wales “would have stuck with the original,” rather than adopting the new translation of the Mass. Most recently in the news for saying that priests should tolerate noisy children for the sake of encouraging more families to attend Mass, Bishop Conry has been criticized by some Catholics over the last year for meeting with groups arguing for the ordination of women and rejecting Church teaching on chastity.
In response to criticisms, he said he was “troubled that some people seem to regard sexual morality as a priority and ignore the more basic demands of the Gospel. The Gospel has little to say about sexual behavior and a lot more to say about justice and charity.”
Describing Bishop Conry as someone renowned among the diocese’s priests and people for “his personal warmth and kindness,” Catholic Universe columnist Caroline Farrow told Aleteia that when Bishop Conry’s statement was read out, “gasps could be heard from the pews and Mass-goers filed out in tears.”
Brighton-based Farrow, whose husband is a former Anglican vicar preparing for the Catholic priesthood, says Bishop Conry had been “a hands-on and always approachable pastor” who “believed strongly in the work of pre-evangelization and making the Gospel accessible.”
Farrow says Bishop Conry was a popular and empathetic figure on the diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes, which many describe as a seminal moment in their faith journeys, and that he had made vocations a diocesan priority, appointing the diocese’s first full-time vocations director. “Arundel and Brighton,” said Farrow, “currently has seven young men going through seminary and thriving groups for young men and women who are exploring the call to either the priesthood or religious life.”
Commenting on how many clergy have spoken with gratitude of Bishop Conry’s kindness and care during times of trouble, Farrow said that in her experience he “was always able to strike exactly the right tone with people and that he had great insight into the challenges and struggles faced by ordinary Catholic families.“
“Like others,” she said, “we are shocked and grieving but nonetheless offer him our forgiveness and prayers as he discerns his future.”
Greg Daly covers the U.K. and Ireland for Aleteia.