Arthur Roche

Arthur Roche (born 6 March 1950) is an English prelate of the Catholic Church who has been Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW) since May 2021. He was Secretary of that congregation from 2012 to 2021. Roche was the ninth Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds from 2004 to 2012, having served previously as Coadjutor Bishop of Leeds and before that as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Westminster. He became an archbishop when he joined the CDW in 2012.

Arthur Roche
Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
Bishop Arthur Roche 2008.jpg
Roche as the Bishop of Leeds in 2008.
ChurchRoman Catholic Church
Appointed27 May 2021
PredecessorRobert Sarah
Ordination19 July 1975
by Gordon Wheeler
Consecration10 May 2001
by Cormac Murphy-O'Connor
Personal details
Arthur Roche

(1950-03-06) 6 March 1950 (age 72)
DenominationRoman Catholic
ParentsArthur and Frances Roche
Previous post(s)
Alma materPontifical Gregorian University
MottoDuc in Altum
("Put out into the deep")
Coat of armsCoat of arms of Arthur Roche.svg
Styles of
Arthur Roche
Coat of arms of Arthur Roche.svg
Reference styleThe Most Reverend
Spoken styleYour Grace
Religious styleArchbishop
Ordination history of
Arthur Roche
Priestly ordination
Ordained byWilliam Wheeler
Date19 July 1975
Episcopal consecration
Principal consecratorCormac Murphy-O'Connor
Co-consecratorsDavid Konstant
Victor Guazzelli
Date10 May 2001

Early life and ministryEdit

Arthur Roche was born in Batley Carr, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England, to Arthur and Frances Roche. He attended St Joseph's Primary School, St John Fisher High School and Christleton Hall. From 1969 to 1975, he studied at St Alban's College in Valladolid, Spain, where he obtained a degree in theology from the Comillas Pontifical University. Upon his return to England, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop William Wheeler for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Leeds on 19 July 1975.

Roche's first appointment in the diocese was as assistant priest at Holy Rood Church in Barnsley until 1978, when he became private secretary to Bishop William Gordon Wheeler. He was appointed Vice-Chancellor of the diocese in 1979. From 1982 to 1989, he served on the staff of St Anne's Cathedral in Leeds, and helped to organise the visit of Pope John Paul II to York in May 1982.

Roche was the diocesan Financial Secretary from 1986 to 1991 and parish priest at St Wilfrid's Church from 1989 to 1991. In 1991, he studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University, earning a Licence in Theology (STL). He then became spiritual director of the Venerable English College. He was appointed General Secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales in April 1996 and given the title of Monsignor.

Auxiliary bishop of WestminsterEdit

On 12 April 2001, Pope John Paul II named Roche an auxiliary bishop of Westminster and titular bishop of Rusticiana.[1][2] He received his episcopal consecration on the following 10 May in Westminster Cathedral from Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, with Bishops David Konstant and Victor Guazzelli serving as co-consecrators.[3]

Coadjutor and Bishop of LeedsEdit

Roche was named Coadjutor to the Bishop of Leeds, David Konstant, on 16 July 2002.[4] Roche became the ninth bishop of Leeds when Pope John Paul accepted Bishop Konstant's resignation on health grounds on 7 April 2004.[5]

In the Leeds diocese, in 2008 Roche's plans to close seven parishes produced vigorous protests, especially on the part of a parish in Allerton Bywater that offers a Mass in Latin.[6][7]

Roche had been mentioned as a possible successor to Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor as Archbishop of Westminster, leader of the Church in England and Wales.[8] He was even said to be the cardinal's favoured candidate.[9] His name had also been mentioned as a possible successor to Archbishop Kevin McDonald as Archbishop of Southwark.[citation needed]

Commission on English in the LiturgyEdit

In July 2002, while continuing as bishop of Leeds, Roche was elected chairman of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, which oversees the translation of the Latin liturgical texts into English. The Commission had failed to win the Holy See's confirmation of its 1998 translation of the Missal, and Roche's appointment, along with replacement of staff, was part of an overhaul to ensure a more accurate translation that an increasing number of bishops and Vatican officials had wanted over the years.[a][11][12]

As the chairman of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, it fell to Roche to superintend the final stages of the work and then to announce that the new translation of the Missal into English was ready. There followed a positive outcome of voting on the text by all English-speaking episcopal conferences throughout the world. This new translation of the Roman Missal was introduced into Catholic parishes in the United Kingdom in September 2011.[13]

Congregation for Divine WorshipEdit

On 26 June 2012, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Roche Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW) and raised him to the rank of archbishop.[b][15][16] As Secretary, he maintained the low profile typical of his curial rank, signing statements and doing press relations in tandem with the prefect of the CDW, until 2014 Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera and from 2014 to 2021 Cardinal Robert Sarah. In 2016 he explained Pope Francis' decision to allow the Holy Thursday footwashing ceremony to include women. He described it as a return to practices before Pope Pius XII reorganized Holy Week services in 1955. He contradicted press reports that Cardinal Sarah was at odds with the pope on this change. He said, "I'm not aware of that, and I'm [Sarah's] closest collaborator."[17]

Pope Francis asked him in December 2016 to chair an informal commission to determine who should have responsibility for translating liturgical texts into the vernacular.[18] In September 2017, when Francis released his document Magnum principium giving national bishops' conferences the dominant role and constraining the authority of the CDW, Roche alone authored the CDW's accompanying commentary.[19][20]

On 29 March 2014, Pope Francis named Roche a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture.[21][22] On 29 July 2019, Pope Francis named him a member of the group that reviews appeals of convictions for delicta graviora, the gravest crimes dealt with by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.[23][c]

On 27 May 2021, Pope Francis named him Prefect of the CDW.[25] With this appointment Roche became the highest-ranking English cleric in the Vatican.[26]

Traditionis Custodes and restrictions on the Missal of 1962Edit

A few months into Roche's tenure as prefect, Pope Francis issued the motu propio, Traditionis Custodes, which severely restricted the celebration of Mass according to the Missal of 1962, more commonly known as the Traditional Latin Mass. Roche and his congregation were tasked with implementing the Motu Propio. On 18 December 2021, Roche issued a Responsa ad Dubia concerning Traditionis Custodes. In this document restrictions were clarified, including restrictions on the celebration of sacraments according to the old rite and a total ban on the celebration of the sacraments of Holy Orders and Confirmation according to the old rite. Roche has also stated that the promotion of the Traditional Latin Mass has been "curtailed" and that the permission to celebrate the old rite is a concession being made to those who are attached to the old rite but is not an opportunity for the old rite to be promoted. [27][28]

Criticism over the suppression of the Old RiteEdit

Roche has come under criticism from numerous groups for his role in the implementation of Traditionis Custodes, with some claiming the steps that are being taken by Roche are "cruel", "unnecessarily harsh" or even unlawful. Roche has rejected claims that the restrictions being implemented are unlawful, stating in an interview that the restrictions are "legitimate and fully compliant with Canon Law."[29] In a letter to Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, Roche claimed that Pope Paul VI had "abrogated" the Old Rite. Roche's assessment seemed to contradict Pope Benedict XVI's assertion in his 2007 Motu Propio, Summorum Pontificum, that the Old Rite had never been abrogated.[30] Some have claimed that Roche has contradicted himself during the process of implementing restrictions on the Old Rite, given that in 2015 when speaking about why the celebration of the Tridentine Mass was permitted, he stated "we want unity in the Church and not just simple uniformity, Pope Francis wants unity with diversity".[31] In January 2022, in an interview with Catholic News Service, Roche stated that if the faithful do not take Traditionis Custodes seriously, then that is "a serious decision people are making". Roche also stated in the interview that the path Pope Francis has chosen to take on the matter of the celebration of the old rite is something that he has been mandated to do by the Second Vatican Council. In the same interview Roche, also indicated that the promulgation of Traditionis Custodes was done, because it was clear that the Old Rite was being promoted rather than just being seen as a concession and according to Roche the allowance of the Old Rite was supposed to be simply a concession and caring for those attached to it.[32]

  1. ^ Roche was not as clearly aligned with one side in the translation dispute as were other Commission members.[10]
  2. ^ Roche replaced Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, who said he was "flabbergasted" by his removal after just three years as secretary.[14]
  3. ^ Though news reports underscore the fact that this includes clerical sexual abuse of minors,[24] a subject of intense interest, many of the offenses at issue are closely related to the work of the CDW, notably violations of the norms for the Eucharist and Penance.


  1. ^ "Rinunce e Nomine, 12.04.2001" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 12 April 2001. Retrieved 17 February 2020.
  2. ^ "Off to Serve the Holy Father". Diocese of Leeds. 27 September 2012. Archived from the original on 29 November 2014.
  3. ^ "Westminster: two new bishops ordained". Independent Catholic News. Archived from the original on 27 June 2017. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  4. ^ "Rinunce e Nomine, 16.07.2002" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 16 July 2002. Retrieved 17 February 2020.
  5. ^ "Rinunce e Nomine, 07.04.2004" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 7 April 2004. Retrieved 17 February 2020.
  6. ^ "Save Our Churches: a Congregation of 200 "is not viable"". The Telegraph. 23 August 2008. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  7. ^ "Church protest over closure plan". BBC News. 25 July 2008. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  8. ^ Gledhill, Ruth (22 November 2008). "Pope asked to pick from four names as Archbishop of Westminster steps down". Times Online. London.
  9. ^ Gledhill, Ruth (19 March 2009). "Arthur Roche still in running for Westminster". Times Online. Archived from the original on 22 March 2009.
  10. ^ Allen Jr., John L. (14 February 2003). "German translations latest to face Vatican crackdown". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  11. ^ Allen Jr., John L. (30 August 2002). "Liturgical language struggle takes turn to traditionalism". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  12. ^ Reese, Thomas (12 September 2017). "Reforming Catholic liturgy should be like updating software". National Catholic Reporter. Religion News Service. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  13. ^ "England and Wales: New Missal Translation Ready". Rome. 18 January 2011.
  14. ^ Glatz, Carol (27 June 2012). "Pope names US archbishop to new post to aid talks with traditionalists". National Catholic Reporter. Catholic News Service. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  15. ^ "Rinunce e Nomine, 26.06.2012" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 17 February 2020.
  16. ^ "Archbishop Arthur Roche Bishop Emeritus of Leeds". The Diocese of Leeds. Archived from the original on 25 June 2013. Retrieved 16 June 2013.
  17. ^ Pentin, Edward (29 January 2016). "Archbishop Roche: Pope's Foot-Washing Change Is a Return to Tradition". National Catholic Register. Archived from the original on 24 September 2020. Retrieved 29 May 2021.
  18. ^ O'Connell, Gerard (9 September 2017). "Pope Francis has ordered a review of the new Mass translation rules". America. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  19. ^ "Apostolic Letter in the form of Motu Proprio Magnum principium". Congregation for Divine Worship. 9 September 2017. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  20. ^ Lamb, Christopher (9 September 2017). "Pope releases new liturgical law paving way for revision of English missal". The Tablet. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  21. ^ "Rinunce e Nomine, 29.03.2014" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 29 March 2014. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  22. ^ "Pope confirms heads of Vatican's curial agencies". The Pilot. 29 March 2014. Archived from the original on 5 April 2014. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  23. ^ "Resignations and Appointments, 29.07.2019" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. 29 July 2019. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  24. ^ Mares, Courtney (27 May 2021). "Pope Francis appoints Archbishop Arthur Roche as successor to Cardinal Sarah". Catholic News Agency. Archived from the original on 28 May 2021. Retrieved 29 May 2021.
  25. ^ "Rinunce e nomine, 27.05.2021" (Press release) (in Italian). 27 May 2021. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  26. ^ Lamb, Christopher (27 May 2021). "Archbishop Roche to head liturgy congregation". The Tablet. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  27. ^ "Vatican lays down the law on the Old Rite". The Tablet. Retrieved 5 January 2022.
  28. ^ "Archbishop Roche on 'Traditionis Custodes' and Its Guidelines: 'The Liturgical Possibilities Are in Place'". NCR. Retrieved 5 January 2022.
  29. ^ "Archbishop Roche on 'Traditionis Custodes' and its Guidelines: 'The Liturgical Possibilities Are in Place'".
  30. ^ "Vatican Liturgy Chief: Traditional Latin Mass 'Abrogated by Pope St. Paul VI'".
  31. ^ "Then and now: Archbishop Roche vs. Archbishop Roche on the TLM". Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  32. ^ "Archbishop says most bishops see importance of 'Traditionis Custodes'". Catholic News Service. 21 January 2022. Retrieved 25 January 2022.
Additional sources
  • Peckers, Keith F. (2009). The Genius of the Roman Rite: On the Reception and Implementation of the New Missal. Liturgical Press.
  • Roche, Arthur (5 August 2006). "Search for Truth and Poetry". The Tablet.
  • Roche, Arthur (15 June 2006). "Address to US Bishops' Conference". Liturgy Office, England and Wales. Archived from the original on 12 March 2008.

External sourcesEdit

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Titular Bishop of Rusticiana
Succeeded by
Preceded by Bishop of Leeds
(Coadjutor bishop 2002–2004)
Succeeded by
Preceded by Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship
Succeeded by
Preceded by Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship