Wednesday, 9 August 2006

The Twelfth Abbot of Downside

Breaking news from Downside - Dom Aidan Bellenger has just been elected twelfth Abbot, succeeding Abbot Richard Yeo (who has been in office since 1998 and is also Abbot President of the English Benedictine Congregation). Former superiors of the community include John Bede Polding (later first Archbishop of Sydney), John Chapman (author of the Spiritual Letters and responsible for the useful maxim: 'pray as you can and not as you can't') and Christopher Butler (later Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster and a prominent theologian at the time of Vatican II).

The new Abbot has up until now been the Abbey's Prior and is one of our foremost English Catholic historians. His books include English and Welsh Priests, 1558-1800: A Working List (1984), The French Exiled Clergy in the British Isles After 1789 (1986), Princes of the Church: A History of the English Cardinals (2001) and The Mitre and the Crown: A History of the Archbishops of Canterbury (2005). He also served as Headmaster of the Abbey's famous school (1991-95). I recently got to know him through my work as Westminster archivist and had lunch with him just over a fortnight ago. I'm sure he will do great work at Downside (though he may now have less time for his historical interests). His appointment means that two of our most prominent Benedictine historians are Abbots - the other one being Geoffrey Scott of Douai. Ad multos annos!


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