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Mass to mark the tenth anniversary of the death of Cardinal Basil Hume

17/06/2009

The tenth anniversary of the death of Cardinal Basil Hume has been marked by a Requiem Mass celebrated at Westminster Cathedral, Wednesday 17 June 2009, by the Right Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster.

Basil Hume became Cardinal in 1976 and was president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences between 1978-87 and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales between 1979-99. He encouraged work with young homeless people through the Society of St Vincent de Paul and in 1986 founded the Cardinal Hume Centre for young people at risk. He also turned his attention to other forms of social injustice and was instrumental in the release of the Guildford Four. Throughout his life he remained a humble and approachable man, preferring to wear a monk’s habit instead of his Cardinal’s robes. The Queen rewarded his remarkable achievements shortly before his death on 17th June 1999 with the Order of Merit.

Moved by the needs of others

In his Homily, Archbishop Vincent Nichols drew attention to the way in which throughout his life Cardinal Hume was moved by the needs of others.

“As we know, he had a compassionate heart. He was moved by poverty, hardship and, of course, injustice. This humane and deeply compassionate man acted on these promptings. The list of those actions is impressive: the Passage in St Vincent’s Convent, the Cardinal Hume Centre itself, his spontaneous insistence on travelling to Ethopia to show support for all those caught up in that dreadful famine, the campaign for the Guildford Four and others unjustly imprisoned.”

Archbishop Vincent Nichols also spoke of the openness of Cardinal Hume’s faith:

“He had a rare gift of putting into words, for us all, the struggle involved in reaching out towards God. He helped us to understand that only occasionally will we catch a glimpse of God’s beauty and goodness, and that we are to live for the most part in hopeful trust, knowing that God is near, even if we do not easily or readily sense His presence.”

Full text of Archbishop Vincent's homily

Homily: Archbishop Vincent Nichols on the tenth anniversary of Cardinal Hume's death (MS Word) 32.50 kB

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Cardinal Hume biography

Born George Hume in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1923 to a Scottish father and French Catholic mother, he decided to become a monk at the age of ten. He joined Ampleforth Monastery in 1941, taking the name Basil, and his solemn vows in 1945. He studied in Oxford and Fribourg then was ordained in 1950.

Returning to Ampleforth, he became Assistant Priest in the village and a teacher in the school, eventually becoming Head of Modern Languages and school rugby coach. He also taught dogmatic theology to the monks in training.

Hume progressed fast: he was elected to represent Ampleforth in the General Chapter of the English Benedictine Congregation in 1957, then elected Magister Scholarum. In 1963, he was elected Abbot of Ampleforth and it was in this role that his talent for keeping the peace and promoting harmony started to show.

Following Vatican II and the Church’s resulting internal dissent, Hume supported both the conservatives and the progressives, allowing both sides to think that his sympathies lay with them. Indeed, he said that his head was progressive while his heart was conservative. He formed friendships and connections with people from other denominations, always believing that the love of God was central to religion and to solving conflicts between individuals.

After his promotion to Cardinal in 1976, Basil Hume’s first act was to lead the monks of Ampleforth to Westminster Abbey to sing vespers for the first time in 400 years. A great lover of music, he saved the Cathedral Choir of Westminster from being disbanded. He encouraged work with young homeless people through the Society of St Vincent de Paul and in 1986 founded the Cardinal Hume Centre for young people at risk. He even opened the Cathedral Hall to those sleeping rough. He also turned his attention to other forms of social injustice and was instrumental in the release of the Guildford Four.

He was president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences between 1978-87 and president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales 1979-99.

When the Church of England introduced the ordination of women, some of its clergy converted to Roman Catholicism. Cardinal Hume managed their conversion and, whilst initially excited at the idea that the two churches might be reunited, he learnt how best to help by skilfully smoothing over a period that might have led to a massive rift.

Throughout his life he remained a humble and approachable man, preferring to wear a monk’s habit instead of his Cardinal’s robes. So adept was he at keeping the peace that he promoted the position of Roman Catholics in Britain from one of slight suspicion to one of unthinking acceptance. The Queen rewarded his remarkable achievements shortly before his death on 17th June 1999 with the Order of Merit.