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New Rector for Catholic National Shrine at Walsingham

The Rev Dr Robert Billing has been appointed the new Rector of the Catholic National Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham in Norfolk. He will serve for a five-year term and will take up his new responsibilities from September 1.

Fr Robert is a priest of the Diocese of Lancaster and served as Bishop’s Secretary to three successive bishops over a period of 13 years. He is currently parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes, Carnforth, some seven miles north of Lancaster.

As Rector, Fr Robert will oversee the mission of the Catholic National Shrine and will be responsible for the pastoral and spiritual care of pilgrims, the Shrine chaplains and visiting clergy. The Rector also promotes the message and work of the Shrine nationally and internationally.

Bishop of East Anglia, the Rt Rev Peter Collins, appointed the new Rector. He said: “I am immensely grateful to Bishop Paul Swarbrick of Lancaster for his generosity in releasing Fr Robert for this important role. Fr Robert brings with him a wealth of talent and experience that will stimulate our vision of the future. His spiritual, pastoral and administrative abilities will undoubtedly bear abundant fruit within the national and international mission of Walsingham.

“I wish to express my sincere gratitude to Fr James Mary OFM Conv for his contribution over recent months as Acting Rector at the Shrine. As we look forward to welcoming Fr Robert let us be united and committed in praying for him in the weeks ahead.”

Fr Robert expressed his surprise and joy at his appointment: “My appointment to serve as the new Rector of the Catholic National Shrine and Basilica of Our Lady at Walsingham comes as a big surprise. Of course, it is also a huge joy and honour.

“Only a year ago, I was appointed, after a number of years in diocesan administration, school chaplaincy, and, more recently, engaged in canon law studies, to pastor three small parishes north of Lancaster, each under the patronage of Our Blessed Lady. I had never expected my time in these parishes to be so short, though in this year I have learnt much and received so much encouragement. Now, I take the faithful of these parishes with me in prayer to the heart of Our Lady’s Dowry, to Walsingham.

“As I take up this further service to the Church, this time nationally, I venture, first, as a pilgrim, eager to learn and to serve closely with those who dedicate themselves to make Walsingham ‘England’s Nazareth’ today. I hope to share and confirm that commitment.

Bishop Alan Hopes, Chair of the Walsingham Trust and Bishop Emeritus of East Anglia, said: “I am delighted that Fr Robert has been appointed as the new Rector of the National Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham. With his undoubted spiritual and pastoral gifts, Fr Robert will bring renewal and fresh vision to the mission and work of the Shrine, promoting its message, both nationally and further afield. We entrust him to the prayers of Our Lady of Walsingham as he prepares to take up this important task.”



Pictured above is Rev Dr Robert Billing, named as the new Rector of the Catholic National Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham.


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