Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster

Archdiocese of Westminster

Dioecesis Vestmonasteriensis
New Coat of arms of the Archdiocese of Westminster.svg
Arms of the diocese
TerritoryGreater London boroughs north of the Thames and west of Waltham Forest and Newham, plus the City of London, the districts of Staines and Sunbury-on-Thames, and the county of Hertfordshire.
Ecclesiastical provinceWestminster
Area3,634 km2 (1,403 sq mi)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2015)
Increase 4,893,000
Decrease 453,700 (Decrease 9.3%)
DenominationRoman Catholic
RiteLatin Rite
Established29 September 1850
CathedralWestminster Cathedral
Secular priests366
Current leadership
Metropolitan ArchbishopHis Eminence, Vincent Nichols
Auxiliary Bishops

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster is an archdiocese[1] of the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church in England. The diocese consists of all of London north of the River Thames and west of the River Lea, the borough of Spelthorne (in Surrey), and the county of Hertfordshire, which lies immediately to London's north.

The diocese is led by the Archbishop of Westminster, who serves as pastor of the mother church, Westminster Cathedral, as well as the metropolitan bishop of the ecclesiastical Province of Westminster. Since the re-establishment of the English Catholic dioceses in 1850, each Archbishop of Westminster—including the incumbent, Cardinal Vincent Gerard Nichols—has been created a cardinal by the Pope in consistory, often as the only cardinal in England, but the 43rd of English cardinals since the 12th century. It is also customary for the Archbishop of Westminster to be elected President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales providing a degree of a formal direction for the other English bishops and archbishops. However, he is not formally a primate, though he has special privileges conferred by the Papal Bull Si qua est.[2] The Archbishop of Westminster has not been granted the title of Primate of England and Wales, which is sometimes applied to him, but his position has been described as that of "chief metropolitan" of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales and as "similar to" that of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Church of England (as the metropolitan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury.[3] The diocese is one of the smallest dioceses in England and Wales in geographical area, but the largest in terms of Catholic population and priests.[4]

The suffragan sees of Westminster are the dioceses of Brentwood, East Anglia, Northampton, and Nottingham.


The diocese essentially covers the same region as the Church of England Diocese of London as it was before the English Reformation until 1850, adopting—like all other dioceses across England (created that year)[5]—an alternative name (originally because of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act 1851) but based on the centuries-old divisions of the country.[6] The diocese effectively survived the period of Catholic oppression in English history as a missionary territory established by canons accepted by Rome in 1622 as the Apostolic Vicariate of England which was in public law pronounced in England and Wales illegal as counter to the established church.

The mostly clandestine apostolic vicariate covering the country was divided so that the Apostolic Vicariate of London District formed on 30 January 1688 coinciding with a degree of freedoms. By decree of Pope Pius IX (Universalis Ecclesiae), this entity gained its elevation to the rank of a metropolitan diocese (instead of archdiocese) on 29 September 1850.