by Angus Macdonald EATHE.R Timothy Radcliffe, the Father Provincial of the Dominicans in Britain and one of this country's most popular and highly respected religious has been elected as the Master of the Dominican Order worldwide. He will be the first Englishman to head the great preaching order since its foundation in 1221.
Fr Timothy was chosen after five days of discussion and prayer by more than 150 delegates meeting at the tri-annual international General Chapter of the order at Guadalupe in Mexico. He will be the 84th Master General in succession to St Dominic, and will head over 7,000 Dominican friars in 66 countries around the world.
The election is given special significance in the year marking the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the first Dominican who sailed to the New World with Christopher Columbus. One of Fr Timothy's first priorities will be the development of the Order in the Third World, many of whose delegates voted for him in Mexico.
Dominicans throughout Britain this week expressed delight at the news, but there was a tinge of sadness that they should he losing so well-loved a Father Provincial to Rome.
"This is great news," said Fr Giles Hibbert. a former lecturer at
Blackfriars College in Oxford, "but we all feel a little hit sad because we shall lose him in a sense. He is just the person who was seeing us forward very nicely. Now we shall have to share him — but he is big enough to share!"
Fr Radcliffe was coming to the end of a four-year term as Provincial of the English Province and was widely expected to be reelected at the September gathering of English Dominicans. His departure for the international arena means a new Provincial must now be elected.
Fr Hibbert added that many English Dominicans now thought of him as a personal friend. "He is a great theologian and a very,very warm person."
Fr Richard Conrad OP, Prior of Blackfriars in Cambridge , said that Fr Timothy represented sound moral theology applied to political and social issues. "He is not a radical theologian, but he is not afraid to apply Catholic teaching to practical issues."
Fr Timothy will take up his new position with immediate effect, but will remain in• Mexico until the end of the international Chapter in July. He will then be based at the international Dominican headquarters at Santa Sabina in Rome. but is expected to be travelling around the various Dominican provinces for at least six months of the year.