Bishop Kenney was born on 7 May 1946 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and was brought up in Birmingham in the parish of St Mary & St John, Gravelly Hill.
He attended St Phillip’s Grammar School, situated next to the Birmingham Oratory in Edgbaston. He entered the noviciate of the Passionist Congregation, at Broadway in Worcestershire and was professed in September 1963. After studies for the priesthood, he gained a License in Theology (STL) at Heythrop Collegeand was ordained in St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham, on 29 June 1969. Bishop Kenney studied sociology and psychology at the universities of Vaxjo and Gothenburgand obtained a Fil kand (the same as a BA). He worked as a parish priest and academic sociologist within the Catholic Church in Sweden, before pursuing doctoral studies at the London School of Economics from 1977 to 1979.
He then lectured in the Sociology of Religion and was Director of Studies at the Department of Religious Studies in the University of Gothenburg between 1979 and 1982 and from 1984 to 1987. He was a General Councillor of the Passionist Congregation, resident in Rome, from 1982 to 1984. Bishop Kenney was ordained bishop on 24 August 1987 and appointed Auxiliary Bishop of the diocese of Stockholm and Vicar General. One of his major concerns has been to build up the Caritas organisation of the diocese. This is the organisation responsible for the pastoral-social work of the Church on both a national and international basis.
In 1991 he was elected President of Caritas Europe for a four-year term. The major part of this work concerned the problems of refugees and immigrants within Europe and the building up of the Caritas organisations in the eastern part of our continent. He was re-elected for a further four-year term in 1995. He is now serving a second term on the Legal Affairs Commission of Caritas Internationalis that has its headquarters in the Vatican.
In 1988 Bishop Kenney was awarded an honorary doctorate of Philosophy at the University of Gothenburg for his work in internationalising studies at the university and for his work among immigrant students. Besides his duties in the diocese he lectures extensively both in Sweden and abroad on social issues and on ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue. He is also internationally known as a retreat-leader, particularly for religious. He has taken part in three Episcopal synods: in 1991 on Europe; 1994 on Religious Life; 1999 the Second European Synod. He is today, among other posts, the chairperson of Caritas Sweden, of the diocesan Justice & Peace Commission, and of Respekt the organisation for “life” questions in the diocese of Stockholm. He is also co-chair of the official conversations between the Lutheran and Catholic Churches in Finland and Sweden. He is the Nordic representative on COMECE, where he is COMECE’s representative on the Holy Land Coordination to support the Bishops in the Holy Land. He is chairperson of the Gothenburg Process which is an attempt to increase dialogue between the Churches, Government control authorities, producers and users of small arms. He is also a member of the Passionist Congregation’s international advisory group on social concerns, particularly at the UN. Since October 2004 he has also been Secretary General of the Scandinavian Bishops’ Conference.
Bishop Kenney was elected Diocesan Administrator of the Archdiocese of Birmingham by the College of Consulters, during their meeting at Cathedral House, Birmingham, on Friday 22 May.