On Sunday 5 May, Canon Michael Branch, Dean of St George’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Southwark, was installed as Honorary Ecumenical Canon by The Bishop of Southwark, The Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, at Southwark Cathedral.

The institution and installation took place during a service of Choral Evensong at which the Dean of Southwark, The Very Revd Dr Mark Oakley, preached.

The title of Honorary Ecumenical Canon recognises and respects those who promote good relations between the churches, have served and contributed to the lives of their local communities as well as in national and international outreach.

Fr Michael was formed for the priesthood at Campion House, Osterley, and St John’s Seminary, Wonersh. He was ordained Priest on 31 May 1997, serving as Assistant Priest at St Joseph’s, Roehampton and St Saviour’s, Lewisham. In 2006 he became Parish Priest of St Patrick’s, Plumstead. He then spent nine years as Parish Priest at St Peter’s, Woolwich, before taking on his present position as Dean of St George’s Cathedral. He has worked closely with Bishop Christopher on ecumenical relations between the two cathedrals and dioceses and they both helped to lead an Ecumenical Pilgrimage to the Holy land in 2023.

Bishop Christopher said: “I am glad to welcome the Dean of St George’s Cathedral to this appointment as an Ecumenical Canon. I value his friendship and know Fr Michael has a heart for the unity of Christian people. We will work together to deepen the cooperation and friendship on which good ecumenical relations need to be built supported by prayer.”

Fr Michael said: “It is a tremendous honour to be appointed an Ecumenical Canon at Southwark Cathedral by Bishop Christopher. The two Southwark Cathedrals have maintained a close friendship and collaboration working for the Common Good for many years, which I am confident will continue to be strengthened and deepened in our shared love for Christ. In an era of change where division and differences are often emphasised, we at St George’s Cathedral are unreservedly dedicated to working for Christian Unity to highlight our shared mission with Southwark Cathedral in proclaiming in word and action that God is love and the dignity of all human life. Pope Francis stated, ‘When Christians serve God and their neighbours, they also grow in understanding of one another. Our Lord Jesus calls us to love one another as He loves us, which means we must seek areas of unity to share the beauty of Christ with the world.”

During his sermon, Dean Mark said: “Michael, welcome to the family here. I know you will be a blessing to us and we hope that we will help uphold you as we pray for you and celebrate your ministry in this wonderful part of London. God bless us in this journey of faith, together in a parched and searching society, and, in the words of St Oscar Romero, a saint dear to St George’s and to us, ‘Let us never tire of preaching love; it is the force that will overcome the world’”.