The funeral of Cardinal Basil Hume will be held on this day week at Westminster Cathedral in London. Cardinal Hume, who had been the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales for the past 23 years, died yesterday at the age of 76. He died peacefully in hospital, two months after revealing that he was suffering from terminal cancer. Thousands of worshippers are expected to gather at the cathedral this evening for a Requiem Mass.
President McAleese described Cardinal Hume as a man of deep faith and humanity from whom integrity radiated. And the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, said that the Cardinal's promotion of, and support for, peace in Northern Ireland would be long remembered with gratitude and respect.
Cardinal Basil Hume was born in Newcastle in 1923. His father was a Protestant heart surgeon and his mother was a French Catholic. He went to the famous Ampleforth Catholic Public School, the leading Catholic public school where he later became abbot and was further educated at Oxford university. He later returned to Ampleforth as a Benedictine monk and worked as a housemaster. He life there ended, when in 1976 he was appointed Archbishop of Westminster and later made a Cardinal by the Pope.
According to Hugo Young, who is columnist with the Guardian and was educated at Ampleforth, where Cardinal Hume was his housemaster, the Cardinal chose causes carefully and these included the cases of the Maguire 7 and the Guildford 4, where he played no small part in their releases. He campaigned vigorously on behalf of Irish victims of miscarriages of justice with two former home secretaries and two former law lords who formed what became known as the Cardinal's Commission. His involvement in getting those miscarriages of justice overturned had begun in earnest when he first visited Guiseppe Conlon, the father of Gerry Conlon, in prison.
Under Cardinal Hume, the Catholic Church in England regained an influence lost to it for many centuries. He worked for ecumenism and his inauguration as Archbishop was followed by an ecumenical service. As the debate on women priests caused turmoil within the Church of England, Cardinal Hume trod a conservative line, though he worked with the Archbishop of Canterbury to help avert a worsening crisis. His conservatism, however, was one of the things that attracted some influential converts, notably the Duchess of Kent and Charles Moore, the editor of The Telegraph.