Peers, priests, parishioners and ex-PM in Twickenham to honour former Primate
The former Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor was honoured by St Mary’s University in Twickenham last week for his sixty years service as a priest.
Cardinal Murphy O’Connor, who now lives in a parish in West London and regularly says Mass for his fellow parishioners, recalled addressing an audience of sixth formers who questioned him closely about faith the state of the world today.
He said he was struck by how many of them seemed to lack hope for the future. The Cardinal also regaled his audience with first-hand accounts, some of them humorous, of having been in Rome for the elections of the two most recent Popes, Benedict and Francis.
He also recounted welcoming Pope Benedict, on his visit to the UK, at St Mary’s. The ground breaking and brave decision of Pope Benedict to retire on health grounds – he is now Pope Emeritus – meant, said Cardinal Murphy O’Connor, that age was no longer as great a consideration in choosing a new Pontiff and meant it was a question of simply choosing the best man for the job, he said.
In Francis, the Jesuit Cardinal Joseph Bergoglio from Buenos Aires in Argentina, they had chosen just that, he said.
Cardinals Murphy O’Connor and Bergoglio got their red hats together and, consequently, got to know each other quite well, said the former Primate of England and Wales.
He therefore felt confident saying that the Pope is an extraordinary individual capable of great things for the Church.
Among those present at the evening were Cardinal Murphy O’Connor’s friend and colleague, Ireland’s Cardinal Sean Brady, former Prime Minister Tony Blair whose period in Downing Street broadly coincided with that of the Cardinal in Westminster, Lord Chris Patten, Baroness Warsi and many others who wished him well.
The event was organised by the University’s vice chancellor Francis Campbell, a former FCO career diplomat from Northern Ireland and British Ambassador to the Vatican.
The Cardinal was presented with a personalised St Mary’s rugby shirt – the university is renowned for its sports, including GAA, and sports science – and the highest order of medal of St Benedict.