First new diocese since 1929 created in Yorkshire

Wakefield, Ripon and Bradford Cathedrals The Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales will be home to Wakefield, Ripon and Bradford cathedrals

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The first new Church of England diocese in 85 years has come into existence following the merger of three dioceses.

The Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales has replaced those of Wakefield, Bradford and Ripon and Leeds, which ceased to exist from Sunday.

The Church of England says the new diocese will be more efficient to run.

It stretches from Barnsley, in South Yorkshire, through West and North Yorkshire to parts of County Durham, serving a population of 2.3m.

The new diocese, the first since 1929, will will be presided over by the Right Reverend Nick Baines, who will be officially inaugurated at a service at York Minster on June 8.

Bishop Baines has been the Bishop of Bradford for three years and was previously the Bishop of Croydon.

'Unique opportunity'
Map of the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales The new diocese covers 2,425 square miles and serves a population of 2.3m

He said the "unprecedented organisational change" would allow the Church to combine "the intimacy of the local with the advantages of scale".

"It will enable the Church of England to have a coherent regional voice at the same time as paying attention to distinctive local character," said Bishop Baines.

"We've been given a unique opportunity to look afresh at what we do and why we do it; at who we are and for whom we exist.

"I look forward to working with my colleagues across the diocese as we help shape the mission of the wider Church across West Yorkshire and the Dales."

The former Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Right Reverend John Packer, retired in January, while former Bishop of Wakefield, the Right Reverend Stephen Platten has been appointed as the new Rector of St Michael's Cornhill, in London, and an honorary assistant Bishop in the Diocese of London.

'Pioneers'

The new diocese covers five church areas - Bradford, Huddersfield, Leeds, Ripon and Wakefield - and each will have its own area bishop.

It will be home to three cathedrals - Bradford, Ripon and Wakefield - and have almost 500 clergy, 656 churches and 256 Church of England schools.

The merger was previously rejected by the Wakefield diocesan synod in March 2013, despite approval from the other two dioceses, but was approved by the general synod in July.

Thanksgiving services have been held in the cathedrals of Bradford, Wakefield and Ripon to mark the end of the three former dioceses.

In an open letter to the three now-defunct dioceses, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu said: "You are pioneers within the Church of England - I thank you with all my heart for all that you have given and forsaken in the interests of God's future.

"You have all justly celebrated the achievements of your three dioceses; and this has been very right and proper so to do.

"For what we begin this Easter Day is not a rejection of the past but an honouring of all that has been achieved, and a commitment to see the good news you have shared continue to grow and bear fruit more and more across this part of Yorkshire."

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