DAILY CATHOLIC     MONDAY     June 21, 1999     vol. 10, no. 119

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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Pope lauds Archbishop of Westminster as a shepherd of great spiritual and moral character

          LONDON, JUN 18 (ZENIT).- The Primate of England, George Basil Cardinal Hume, Archbishop of Westminster, died yesterday of cancer at the age of 76. He was former Benedictine Abbot, chosen by Pope Paul VI on February 5, 1976 as Archbishop, and named Cardinal two months later to lead a minority Church of 4.5 million Catholics. Cardinal Hume succeeded in what appeared unthinkable at the time of his appointment: -- to take the Catholic faith, regarded in these Isles with suspicion over the last 400 years, to the very heart of the English nation.

          As proof of his extraordinary ecumenical capacity, today English and foreign newspapers refer to three key events in his time as Archbishop. The Pope's visit in May, 1982, a first in history since the Reformation. A decade later, there was the entry of some 200 married Anglican pastors opposed to the Anglican ordination of women into the Catholic Church. This "drain" could have become a new and irreparable break but, instead, thanks to the Cardinal, it became an occasion of communion between the two denominations. Along with the Anglican pastors, there were some prominent conversions. Two Conservative ministers, Ann Widdecombe and John Gummer, and the Duchess of Kent, a cousin of the Queen, entered the Church at Westminster Cathedral. Finally, in 1995 the Queen herself attended an ecumenical service in the Catholic Cathedral. At the time, there was talk of a Catholic conspiracy in the press, as many believed the country's spiritual leadership had passed from Canterbury to Rome.

          Cardinal Hume was born on March 2, 1923 to a family of mixed religions. His father, a Scot, was Protestant, while his mother was a French Catholic, both belonging to the nobility. The future Cardinal learned about the dialogue between confessions at the same time he learned the languages, refining his French with studies at the Swiss University of Freibourg. He was Abbot of Ampleforth Abbey in York for a long period.

          Cardinal Hume was tall, with a good face, called by the English "a Plantagenet." He governed with intelligence and modesty, the style of the great, calling himself "a benevolent dictator." He was determined in his condemnation of the sins of the times -- egotism in sensuality, eugenic aberrations -- but he was also able to express his doubts.

          He spoke about the loneliness of celibacy and how his faith developed in time. This attitude was confirmed as he faced death. "I am dying of cancer," he told his priests in April, "and, surprisingly, I am serene and at peace with myself."

          The Queen conferred the Order of Merit on him in May, given to persons who have shown exceptional service to the country. The Cardinal said it was in recognition of the work done by all Catholics. Today, one of the first to mourn his loss was Dr. George Carey, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury.

          Following the news of Cardinal George Basil Hume's death yesterday afternoon, the Holy Father sent the following telegram to Westminster Cathedral's Administrator.

          "With great sadness I have received the news of the death of Cardinal George Basil Hume. I offer prayerful condolences to the Auxiliary Bishops, priests, religious and laity of the Archdiocese of Westminster and to the entire Church in England and Wales. Commending the Cardinal's noble soul to our Heavenly Father's eternal love, I thank the Lord for having given the Church a shepherd of great spiritual and moral character, of sensitive and unflinching ecumenical commitment and firm leadership in helping people of all beliefs to face the challenges of the last part of this difficult century. I am confident that the example of the Cardinal's devoted service as Benedictine monk and Abbot at Ampleforth and as Archbishop of Westminster, his untiring work as president of the Bishops' Conference, as well as his witness of dignity and hope in the face of the mystery of suffering and death will inspire all who knew him to ever greater fidelity to the Gospel of salvation. Invoking the comforting gifts of the Holy Spirit upon the Cardinal's family and upon all who mourn him in the hope of resurrection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace in Our Lord Jesus Christ." ZE99061803 and ZE99061810

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

June 21, 1999       volume 10, no. 119


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