Obituary: Fr Wilfrid McGreal O.Carm

01 November 2019

A correspondent writes:

ONE of Britain’s best known Carmelite friars, Fr Wilfrid McGreal O.Carm., died on 23 September. He was a well-known broadcaster and author, and a significant supporter of the ecumenical movement. He was an Ecumenical Canon of Rochester Cathedral. One of the tributes read at his funeral at Aylesford Priory, on 5 October, was from the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams of Oystermouth. Senior Anglican clergy took part in his funeral mass.

Born in the Manchester suburb of Blackley, in 1939, he was educated at St Bede’s Grammar School, which was also a minor seminary. This religious education set the pattern for the future. On leaving school in 1957, he followed in the footsteps of his uncle, Brother Anthony McGreal O.Carm., and entered the Carmelite Order. On ordination to the priesthood in 1964, at Aylesford Priory, he studied English literature at University College, Dublin.

His first assignment after graduation was to Allington College, a Carmelite Retreat House in Kent. In the late 1980s, he joined the Religious Affairs Department of the BBC, and was part of the team that initiated the popular discussion programme The Moral Maze. He was a regular guest on Terry Wogan’s morning programme on Radio 2, and an occasional contributor to Thought for the Day. He was also a popular voice on Radio Kent.

He wrote several books on spirituality. As a young man and theology student in Rome in the 1960s, he had been inspired by the ecumenical outlook of the Second Vatican Council, a commitment that lasted for the rest of his life. This was recognised when he was appointed to his Rochester Cathedral canonry in 2001.

Within the Order of Carmelites, he served as Prior of both Aylesford and Faversham communities, and, when he was 69, he was elected Prior Provincial.

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