The priest just appointed to lead the Derry Diocese has said he is hopeful that a new bishop will be installed within months.
Father Francis Bradley (43) said he did not think being appointed administrator would automatically lead to him becoming Bishop of Derry.
He said he was shocked to have been selected from among the seven Diocesan College of Consultors to replace Monsignor Eamon Martin.
Fr Bradley is director of the Diocesan Pastoral Centre in Bishop Street and was selected following a private meeting on Monday.
The meeting was held the day after Monsignor Martin was made Coadjutor Archbishop in Armagh, making him the second most powerful Catholic cleric in Ireland.
“I don’t see the two things as being connected at all,” he said. “I just happen to be the person most available and that’s the way it worked out.
“We’re hoping my term in office will be short and hopefully we will have a bishop in place before the end of the year.”
Fr Bradley hails from the Co Tyrone village of Gortin where X Factor star Janet Devlin lives, but quipped: “I don’t have as good a voice”.
Of his new post, he said: “My role as administrator will be to keep things moving, keep the wheels of the diocese oiled, and be a source of encouragement to people. I can’t do it on my own, and I don’t substitute for anybody, everybody has to put their shoulder to the wheel.”
He said his priorities will be continuing to spread the gospel message, helping the needy and proclaiming the importance of faith.
Fr Bradley said the Catholic Diocese in Derry, which has not been exempt from the criticism the Church has received over the past few years, had been heartened by the appointment of Pope Francis and Monsignor Martin’s elevation.
“There were 75 priests from the diocese in Armagh and it gave me a great sense of being part of a band of brothers. There was a great sense of colleaguity among the priests of Derry,” he said.
“We want to keep that sense of togetherness and enjoyment going.
“The people of this diocese are tremendously supportive, generous and kind. It is their attitudes that allow us to do our work. We couldn’t do very much of the work we do without their support and commitment.”
SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan was among the first to congratulate Fr Bradley.
He said: “Obviously there are challenges in leading a diocese of this size at this time — but he will enjoy and deserve goodwill from many quarters. He has always struck me as having a clear mind, an easy manner and a natural pastoral instinct.”
A relatively young cleric in a senior position, Father Francis Bradley spent several years in Rome undertaking postgraduate studies following his ordination in 1996.
He subsequently ministered at St Joseph’s Church in Galliagh for five years before moving to the Cappagh parish in Omagh.
He returned to Derry eight years ago and as well as his work at the Diocesan Centre, he also helps out at the Steelstown parish, where he lives.