New Bishop of Sheffield hopes to tackle 'dangerous and toxic' divisions in society

The Rt Rev Philip North, new Bishop of Sheffield.
The Rt Rev Philip North, new Bishop of Sheffield.
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The new Bishop of Sheffield has sent the city a message to 'turn fear into joy' in the face of local and global division.

The Rt Rev Philip North referenced the EU referendum and global political upheaval at his unveiling at the Cathedral Archer Project this morning.

But he also highlighted the challenges facing the people of Sheffield - particularly poverty and homelessness.

Outspoken Bishop North - who has previously accused the Church of England of failing to notice the poor - said the clergy had 'lived with the reality of decline for a long time'.

"It has made us a bit nervous and reticent," he added.

"I would love to see some fresh confidence in Christians in living out their faith."

Bishop Philip introduces himself at Sheffield Cathedral.

Bishop Philip introduces himself at Sheffield Cathedral.

Bishop North, 50, who moves from his post as Bishop of Burnley, has worked all over the country. But he has South Yorkshire roots. His grandfather played football for Doncaster Rovers, his mother was brought up in the town and he spent much of his childhood in the area.

He called Sheffield a 'buzzing, vibrant, youthful and exciting place',

But he admitted there were areas where life was 'tougher'.

"Around Sheffield there are big social housing estates where a lot of people are really struggling to manage," he said.

The bishop hopes to tackle divisions in society.

The bishop hopes to tackle divisions in society.

"Families are working hard but still depend on foodbanks.

"That kind of injustice makes me angry."

The Bishop said he wanted to give a voice to the poor in the city and the wider diocese, which includes Rotherham, Doncaster, Goole and part of Barnsley.

He also highlighted the church's 'healing' role in an increasingly divided world - one where more than 2,000 people staged a protest against US President Donald Trump's so-called 'Muslim ban' in Sheffield on Monday evening.

He said the church had to try to help people better understand each other in a 'dangerous and toxic' political environment.

"The Brexit vote is an interesting example - national politics is badly divided," said Bishop North.

"It is incumbent on the church to understand both sides."

He added: "Because we are present everywhere, we can perhaps help to encourage dialogue where there isn't any."

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