Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor: a ‘good friend’ to Anglicans

08 September 2017

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“Immense impact”: Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor celebrates a Thanksgiving mass at Ealing Abbey, in November 2007

“Immense impact”: Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor celebrates a Thanksgiving mass at Ealing Abbey, in November 2007

ANGLICAN leaders have paid tribute to the former RC Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, who died last Friday, aged 85. He had cancer, and had been admitted to hospital last month.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor was Archbishop of Westminster from 2000 to 2009, having been RC Bishop of Arundel and Brighton for nearly 23 years. He was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2001.

Last month, a message from Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor to Cardinal Nichols was posted on the diocese of Westminster website. It said: “I thank God for the many priests, religious, and lay faithful who have helped and sustained me in my episcopal life. Nor should I forget the many Anglican and Free Church colleagues whose friendship I have valued very much.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury said in a statement: “Cormac was a good friend to Anglicans at home and internationally. As the Catholic co-chair of the second phase of the Anglican–Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC II) he lent both his customary good humour and his theological acumen to the production of some of the most influential of ecumenical agreed texts of the 20th century. At a time when others bemoaned the lack of instant progress in ecumenical relations, Cormac saw the work of ARCIC as an investment and a building block for future closer relations.

“At home he was notable for his support for inter-Church families. He cared for Anglican leaders he knew, encouraged and supported them, drawing them into the fellowship of Christ.”

The Rt Revd Christopher Hill, a former Bishop of Guildford, said on Tuesday: “I shall miss Cormac as a friend as well as an esteemed ecumenical collaborator, a bishop of the Church of God and a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church.”

The two had known each other since the mid-1970s, when Bishop Hill was co-secretary of ARCIC, and Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor was Rector of the Venerable English College in Rome (VEC).

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”He was hugely welcoming to the very junior assistant ecumenical secretary at Lambeth and very wise in advice on all things Vatican. At that time, he also sponsored the Anglican student semesters at the VEC. It was also at that time he and Mark Santer, the Principal of Westcott, got to know and trust each other. It is not accidental that both became co-chairmen of ARCIC-II. I attended Cormac’s episcopal ordination in Arundel, and, while there, he gave pastoral support to many mixed-marriage couples, including exceptional provision for receiving communion.

“As co-chair of ARCIC-II, he did not lose hope during the ecumenical winter. Indeed, while realising that reasons on both sides meant no immediate ecumenical leap forward, he asked the question: ARCIC ‘dead in the water’ or ‘investment in the bank’? In his Worth Lectures, he argued powerfully for the latter, awaiting the time when earlier theological agreement could be pastorally taken forward.

“In retirement he continued to look to a positive future, ecumenically and for the Roman Catholic Church. Cormac was among the non-voting (because of age) Cardinals who participated in significant pre-conclave hearings before the election of Pope Francis. This included dining with Cardinal Bergoglio until the election itself. He was overjoyed at the result.”

The Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, said that Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor’s time in Sussex, during which he co-chaired ARCIC II, “was marked by the growth of understanding between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. . . This coloured his outlook on the Church of England, and it was characteristic of his regard for us that his final statement, as he approached death, mentioned Anglicans among those he had valued in his life and ministry.”

A statement from the LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council expressed “appreciation” for Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor’s “invitation to us in 2006 to become embedded within a Soho Catholic parish, and thus a key part of Westminster diocese. In this way, the LGBT Catholic community was able to express more clearly its communion with the local Church of Westminster and its Bishop.”

In 2007, the LGBT congregation moved to the RC Church of our Lady of the Assumption, Warwick Street.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor’s funeral will be held on Wednesday at Westminster Cathedral.

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