Baroness Hollins becomes Catholic Union President

The Catholic Union has announced the “very exciting appointment” of Baroness Hollins as the organisation’s new President.

The crossbench peer and professional psychiatrist was approved by members of the Catholic Union at their AGM on Tuesday 28 November at the London Jesuit Centre. She takes up the role with immediate effect.

Baroness Hollins is the first woman to hold the office of President in the Catholic Union’s 150-year history. She takes over from Conservative MP, Sir Edward Leigh, who had served as President since 2014.

In a message of thanks, Cardinal Vincent Nichols said: “I should like to put on record my most sincere thanks to Sir Edward for his many years of service to the Catholic Union. He has been steadfast in his defence of the Church and in making sure that a Catholic viewpoint is heard in Parliament. The Catholic community in this country owes him a huge debt of gratitude. I assure Sir Edward and his family of my prayers.”

Cardinal Nichols continued: “I offer my warmest congratulations to Baroness Hollins on her appointment, and I look forward to seeing the Catholic Union continue its important mission under her leadership.”

Baroness Hollins was appointed to the House of Lords in 2010 as a crossbench peer. She is Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at St George’s, University of London, and is a past President of the British Medical Association.

Until earlier this year, Baroness Hollins served on Pope Francis’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which was set up in 2014 to improve safeguarding in the Church.

Baroness Hollins had previously served as a Vice President of the Catholic Union and in 2022 she delivered their annual Craigmyle Lecture. She takes over as President at a time when the Catholic Union’s latest Annual Report reveals this has been their “busiest ever year”.

President of the Catholic Union, Baroness Hollins, comments: “I’m delighted to be taking up the role of President of the Catholic Union at this exciting time in their history. Over the past few years, the Catholic Union has shown once again what can be achieved by lay Catholics getting involved in politics and public life.

“I’m grateful to the Council and members of the Catholic Union for putting their trust in me. It is a great honour to be taking over from Sir Edward Leigh, who has done so much to support Catholic causes in Parliament and beyond. I know he will continue being a friend to the Catholic Union for many years to come.

“There are so many opportunities in the Church and in the country for lay men and women to get involved and make a difference. I’m looking forward to working with Catholic Union members and supporters across the country to help all Catholics play their part in public life.”

Acting Chairman of the Catholic Union, Richard Collyer-Hamlin, comments: “This is a very exciting appointment for the Catholic Union. Baroness Hollins is a hugely respected medical professional and parliamentarian. Her expertise and professionalism have been called upon time and again by Church leaders in this country and in the Vatican. We are extremely fortunate to have her as our new President.

“We will be forever grateful to Sir Edward Leigh for many years of faithful service. The Catholic Union would not be where it is today without out his vision and commitment. While we may be saying goodbye to him as President, I know he will continue to be a faithful friend of the Union for many years to come and a champion of Catholic causes.

“This is an exciting time in our history. Thanks to the hard work of so many people, the Catholic Union is becoming the beating heart of lay Catholic participation in public life once again. I encourage every Catholic in this country to join us on this journey.”