The Right Rev Kevin Dunn: Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle

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The Independent Online

Kevin Dunn had been the Roman Catholic Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle for less than four years, but in that short time had impressed the people of the diocese with his warmth and humanity. He is probably the first Catholic bishop in Britain to have had his death marked by a "podcast" on the diocesan website – the choir of St Mary's Cathedral, Newcastle upon Tyne, singing the "Libera Me" from Fauré's Requiem. Dubbed the "smiling bishop", he was ordained the 12th Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle by his predecessor, Bishop Ambrose Griffiths, in May 2004.

Dunn was born in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, in 1950. He studied at local Catholic schools before beginning his theological studies at Oscott College, Birmingham. He was ordained a priest in 1976 and served in the Birmingham archdiocese in parishes in Walsall, Aston and Stoke, before undertaking further studies in Rome at the "Angelicum", the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas, where he was awarded a Doctorate in Canon Law in 1991.

He was then appointed parish priest in St Austin's, Stafford, and during this time also lectured in canon law at Oscott College. In 2001, he was appointed full-time episcopal vicar for the areas of Wolverhampton, Walsall, the Black Country and Worcestershire. His appointment as Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle was announced on 20 March 2004, the Feast of St Cuthbert, patron of the diocese, and he was ordained bishop on 25 May, the feast of St Bede, another great saint of the North East.

Last year, Dunn attended the World Youth Day held at Cologne in Germany. He was a regular leader of the diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes, where he took time to encourage young people from to develop their faith. He will be particularly remembered for his support of the Church's work with young people, and the encouragement he gave to Catholic schools. At one conference for schools, he surprised teachers by handing over a huge bag of conkers, which he had collected from his garden for schoolchildren.

He was a member of the Catholic Education and Formation Committee, and of the committee for Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults; he was also Chair of the Canon Law Working Party.

Dunn developed an understanding of the importance to Catholics in the North East of their history, and of the role in that history of local saints. He ensured that work began to refurbish the Church of St Aidan on Holy Island (Lindisfarne), an increasingly popular site of pilgrimage. He also campaigned to raise £2m to establish the Bede Chair of Catholic Theology at Durham University, the first such chair at a secular British university.

He did much ecumenical work in the North East, regularly meeting members of the North East Christian Churches Together group where he was Deputy Moderator. In 2006 he organised a pilgrimage to Rome for local church leaders, the highlight of which was an audience in St Peter's Square with Pope Benedict, who personally greeted the visitors.

Dunn was a keen golfer and organised an annual ecumenical tournament with the Anglican bishop Tom Wright and clergy of the diocese of Durham.

Paulinus Barnes

Kevin John Dunn, priest: born Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire 9 July 1950; ordained priest 1976; Roman Catholic Bishop of Hexham & Newcastle 2004-08; died Newcastle upon Tyne 1 March 2008.