THE first four women priests to be ordained by a Bishop of Blackburn were given their blessing in the town’s cathedral at the weekend.

Since the Church of England started admitting females to the priesthood in 1994, previous leaders of the Anglican Church in Lancashire have declined to perform the service.

Former Bishops Alan Chesters and Nicholas Reade would not perform the service because they did not believe in woman priests or bishops.

As a result, the last ordination service of any priests, male or female, at Blackburn Cathedral was in 1993.

When he became Bishop of Blackburn last October, Bishop Julian Henderson broke with his predecessors and pledged his support for both women clergy and women bishops.

He promised he would ordain women as priests and he fulfilled that pledge at the first opportunity on Saturday.

Bishop Julian said: “I am a strong supporter of women clergy and I am fully supportive of women in leadership at all levels.”

The first woman to be ordained as a priest by Bishop Julian was Jane Atkinson of Kirkham St Michael, followed by Helen Leathard, Christine Morton and Judith Kirkham, all working in West and North Lancashire.

Most of the candidates for the priesthood in 2014 were ordained as Deacons in the cathedral last year and returned.

In addition to the 10 priests, a further six candidates were ordained as deacons at another ceremony yesterday.