Shropshire Star

Late Bishop of Shrewsbury led calls for celibacy rule reform

He made calls for married men to become ordained in to the Roman Catholic church and called on his fellow bishops to look seriously at the issue.

Bishop Brian Noble

Right Reverend Brian Noble spoke out in 2015 and urged the church to look at alternative ways to tackle the shortage of clergy. At the time, the Bishop, who died on Monday at the age of 83, said: "If you go to a gathering of priests today, it is like a gathering of grandfathers.

“It would seem that the Pope has indicated he is open to bishops’ conferences approaching him. If this is the case, then a way forward is to take the situation to Rome."

The matter is still under discussion - earlier this month, the Pope called a meeting to discuss a number of issues including whether the church should ease its policy of celibacy for priests, a 1,000-year-old precedent that is expected to spark a heated debate between adherents of the tradition and proponents who have said ordaining married men would help solve the church’s clergy shortage.

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Born in Lancaster, Lancashire, on April 11 1936, the son of Thomas and Celia Noble, he became the 10th bishop of Shrewsbury in the mid 1990s.

He was educated at the Cathedral Primary School, Lancaster, and the Catholic College, Preston, Lancashire. He undertook his priestly training at Ushaw College, Durham, and was ordained to the priesthood at Lancaster Cathedral on May 11 1960.

Father Noble was appointed assistant priest at St Ignatius’ Church in Preston between 1960 and 1968 after which he served at Our Lady and St Patrick’s, Maryport, Cumbria, between 1968 and 1972. For the next eight years between 1972 and 1980, he served as chaplain at Lancaster University and priest-in-charge of St Joseph’s in Galgate.

From 1980 to 1987, Father Noble was on the staff at the Pontificio Collegio, Beda, Rome, where he taught Pastoral Studies and Liturgy. On his return from Rome, he took up an appointment as Parish Priest at St Benedict’s Parish in Whitehaven, Cumbria.

Bishop Brian Noble

Asked about his time as a priest, he said: "Reflecting over the years I recognise this as my own calling - what I've been called to do with my life."

As well as his parish duties, Father Noble’s appointments in the Diocese of Lancaster included the Diocesan Liturgical Commission, the Diocesan Clergy Senate, the Diocesan Youth Commission and the Diocesan Commission for Christian Unity. He was also chairman of the Diocesan Ecumenical Commission and the Diocesan Pastoral Council and vice-chairman of the Council of Priests and was elected a Chapter Canon in 1994.

On August 30 1995 he was ordained to become the 10th Bishop of Shrewsbury in succession to Bishop Joseph Gray. Bishop Noble served as Chair of the Pastoral Liturgy Commission, the Christian Initiation Working Party and the Spirituality Commission of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and was also as a member of the Churches Together in England Enabling Group.

He retired on October 1 2010 and was active as Emeritus Bishop in giving talks and retreats across the country, as well as assisting in the parishes of the Diocese. He died at Arrowe Park Hospital, Birkenhead.

The Catholic Diocese of Shrewsbury is a vast area which includes Shropshire, Cheshire, the Wirral and parts of Greater Manchester, Tameside and Trafford.