THE Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Paul Butler, retires today after 10 years as the Church of England’s fourth most senior cleric.

He hasn’t grabbed the headlines in the way some of his predecessors did – one 40 years ago called the Resurrection a “conjuring trick with bones” which was a dynamite way of getting media coverage – but he has been visible in the town where he lived and in his wider diocese in contrast to some of those predecessors.

Some might say that his opposition to the Government’s policy to export illegal migrants to Rwanda is an example of the Church’s continued lefty-liberal leanings, but it could also be an indicator of how far to the right the Conservative Party is being dragged when even bishops can find demonstrable flaws in its flagship policy.

The bishop’s quiet work on child poverty has also been important. Poverty bedevils the lives of 35 per cent of children in the North East, and puts them at an unfair disadvantage before they’ve even begun. There are no easy fixes for it, and those fixes that do exist are long term, expensive and wide ranging – certainly too complicated to be boiled down to fit on a politician’s pledge card, which may be why it goes unaddressed.

But giving a voice to the voiceless, be they children growing up in poor conditions or unwanted adults fleeing persecution, is what a caring church should be doing, acting as a voice of conscience on our leaders’ shoulders as they try and score political points across the Despatch Box.

We thank the bishop for his 10 years of doing so and wish him, and his wife Rosemary, a long and happy retirement.