POVERTY is a dragon that needs to be slain, the new Bishop of Durham told well-wishers today ahead of a ceremony evoking the legend of the Sockburn Worm.

Bishop Paul Butler was officially welcomed to his new diocese at the historic falchion ceremony in the centre of Croft Bridge ahead of his enthronement at Durham Cathedral tomorrow (Saturday).

Crowds gathered on the bridge over the River Tees to welcome the new bishop, who took the time to chat with parishioners in St Peter’s Church, in Croft, where he likened the fight against poverty in the region to the actions of Sir John Conyers, whose slaying of the mythical dragon formed the basis of the short ceremony.

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Bishop Butler made headlines earlier this week ahead of his enthronement by putting his name to a letter condemning the Government welfare reforms as forcing people into food and fuel poverty.

He stressed that the timing of the letter was coincidental, but that it was important for church leaders to speak out on behalf of those who needed help.

The Northern Echo:

WELCOMING PARTY: Dignataries march towards the bridge from the Hurworth side of Croft Bridge

He added: “Don’t expect me to be speaking out like that every single week – there’s day in, day out stuff that needs to be done in the parishes. I will be encouraging people in the parishes to get on with being the church in the community.

“A lot of that is very ordinary stuff but, as and when it’s important, I will speak out on behalf of the people of the region.

“I will observe and listen at first rather than immediately speak out as if I know all that’s going on in the North East. I’m aware that some of the national issues play themselves out here but in a particular way so it’s important to learn what those issues look like locally.”

History graduate Bishop Butler said he had enjoyed researching the history of the Croft ceremony, where the incoming bishop is presented with the falchion, a 13th century sword used to kill the vicious Sockburn Worm.

The Northern Echo:

Bishop Paul Butler, centre, walks onto the bridge from the Croft side to meet dignataries there to welcome the new Bishop of Durham to County Durham. Pictures: Chris Booth

The Northern Echo:

Bishop Butler was welcomed to County Durham by the Mayor of Darlington, Charles Johnson, who was flanked by members of the Darlington deanery, before making a private visit to St Aidan’s Academy, in Darlington, to meet with pupils.