Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Conor Dr Donal McKeown has been appointed as the new Catholic Bishop of Derry.

Born in Belfast, the 63-year-old succeeds Dr Seamus Hegarty, who retired as Bishop of Derry in late 2011.

In the interim period, two diocesan administrators have been in charge of the interests of the parish - initially Monsignor Eamon Martin and, when he left to become Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh, Father Francis Bradley took on the temporary role.

Dr McKeown is a former president of Saint Malachy's College, Belfast.

He is fluent in Irish, German and Italian and he has a working knowledge of French and Polish.

Dr McKeown is also a regular contributor, both north and south, to radio and television as well as having opinion articles published in newspapers and periodicals.

Addressing parishioners at his presentation at St Eugene's Cathedral in Derry, Bishop McKeown revealed that he was informed of his appointment by the papal nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Charles Brown, last week.

The keen Gaelic footballer was ordained as a priest in Randalstown in 1977.

Describing himself as a life-long sports enthusiast, Bishop McKeown has completed two Belfast marathons and continues to take part in a relay team for the annual marathon in the city.

As a member of the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference, his recent responsibilities have included the promotion of Catholic education, youth ministry, university chaplaincies and the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

His stated interests include the interface between faith and the empirical sciences and work with Catholic schools in Norway, Denmark, Lithuania, Poland and Germany.