A MEETING was held by the Archbishop of Wales with clergy this month to discuss the saga that saw the Bishop of Monmouth absent from his post for nine months.

The Bishop of Monmouth, Richard Pain, was absent from work from July 2018 to March 2019, amid claims that grievances were raised against him by senior staff.

His absence prompted some parishioners to consider withholding their parish shares (money collected from church goers).

A statement sent out by the Archbishop of Wales, John Davies, in December caused some to believe that Bishop Pain was absent because senior colleagues refused to work with him. But he has now clarified his earlier statement, and has declared the matter 'closed'. He expressed regret for any confusion caused.

Bishop Pain retired two months ago, citing ill health.

In a recent meeting held at Newport Cathedral, the Archbishop read out a statement - sent to the Argus by the Church in Wales - relating to Bishop Pain and his senior staff, where he confirmed that Dean Lister Tonge of Newport Cathedral and Archdeacons Jonathan Williams and Ambrose Mason had come to him in July 2018 to express “concerns about Bishop Richard’s well-being”.

South Wales Argus:

(Lister Tonge and Richard Pain in Newport Cathedral)

He said in the statement: “As clergy, we know that when we are involved in the intricacies of other peoples’ lives, we need to be able to keep confidences since the wrong word in the wrong place can have a devastating effect on the personal lives, reputations, relationships and livelihoods of others.

"Keeping confidences can be a two-edged sword since, whenever matters are, for legal or other reasons, required to be kept private and confidential, rumours and misinformation begin to develop, grow and then circulate.

“I am aware that all manner of rumours and some salacious speculation have been circulating in this Diocese, and this has been deeply critical of particular individuals, some of whom are here, myself included.

"This leaves those of us in full possession of the facts with a temptation to betray trust and breach confidentiality to set the record straight. So, I pay tribute to those, who in the face of severe, ill-informed criticism, and sometimes to their own detriment, have neither breached confidences nor disclosed confidential matters.

South Wales Argus: Lister Tonge and Jonathan Williams at the late Paul Flynn's funeral at Newport CathedralLister Tonge and Jonathan Williams at the late Paul Flynn's funeral at Newport Cathedral

“Obviously, therefore, I am not going to betray confidences or disclose confidential matters, but there are some things I want to say and am able to say this evening.

“In July of last year, I met, at their request, with Dean Lister and Archdeacons Ambrose and Jonathan who raised with me, as Archbishop, concerns about Bishop Richard’s well-being. This was entirely the right and proper thing for them to do, and I commend them for doing so. I then asked others to look into some of the issues which they raised with me and to report back confidentially.

South Wales Argus:

(Archdeacon Ambrose Mason with Bishop Richard Pain.)

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“In December, we put out a statement to the press which was factually correct and which it was hoped would be helpful.

"I regret that the statement gave some the impression that Bishop Richard was away from work because his senior colleagues refused to work with him. That was simply not the case."

He continued: “Bishop Richard’s absence was prolonged and this led to growing speculation about any number of circumstances. These, in turn, have cause unjustified and damaging hurt to a number of reputations and relationships. This is deeply regrettable.

“As I have said, I have no intention of betraying anyone’s trust or breaching confidentiality. Bishop Richard has retired early on the grounds of ill-health; and that causes great sorrow to me personally as well as to many others."

He added: "I have appointed the Archdeacons as my commissaries in their respective archdeaconries, and I have appointed the Dean as my commissary in relation to the Cathedral and enacting its new constitution. Their role, together, will be to look after the day-to-day affairs of the diocese.

“And that is all I am able to say; that is all I am going to say. The matter is now closed and our task now – all of our tasks – is to move this Diocese – the Diocese which nurtured me and which I love deeply – to move it forward.”

However, one clergy member stormed out of the meeting at Newport Cathedral, held on June 5, after being told that questions were not permitted.

A ticket-only farewell service for Bishop Pain will take place on July 7 and the election of a new bishop will commence in September.