The Director's Blog

An ecumenical farewell for an ecumenical Cardinal 

Cormac ecumenical

By Catherine Pepinster, Development Officer and former Editor of The Tablet

RW and Cardinal CormacLord Williams of Oystermouth, the former Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, has a daily remembrance of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, who died on September 1. He wears the cardinal’s episcopal ring, which his friend gave him at the dinner in Church House which the Church of England organized to mark the cardinal’s retirement as Archbishop of Westminster in 2009.
On Wednesday, Lord Williams was one of many Anglicans who gathered with their Catholic friends to remember the Cardinal at his Requiem Mass. Among those attending the service, which was presided over by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Cardinal Cormac’s successor as Archbishop of Westminster, were 47 Catholic bishops, 250 priests and 35 deacons, as well as representatives of government and public life, including the Duke of Norfolk, representing the Prince of Wales, and Damian Green, the cabinet minister.
But it was noticeable how ecumenical a funeral this was, reflecting Cardinal Cormac’s longstanding commitment to improved relations between Christian denominations and his chairmanship of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) from 1982 to 2000. As well as Lord Williams, his successor as Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the former Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, were seated in the sanctuary.
Ecumenical guests in the congregation included Dr William Adam, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s ecumenical officer, Jonathan Goodall, the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, Mark Santer, who was the cardinal’s co-chair of ARCIC, Bishop Christopher Hill, former secretary of Arcic, Bishop Christopher Foster of Portsmouth, Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster, and Bishop Stephen Platten, our own chairman of the governors of the Anglican Centre in Rome.
During the Requiem Mass, the cardinal’s service as Rector of the English College, Rome, bishop of Arundel and Brighton, archbishop of Westminster, and cardinal was remembered, as well as his capacity for friendship and his talent for bringing people together.
In his homily, the Archbishop of Cardiff, George Stack, paid tribute to the cardinal’s ecumenical work. He said:
“His gift for friendship and his capacity for putting people at their ease, together with his insightful mind and depth of faith, were a wonderful combination of God’s gifts. He generously put them at the service of God and his Church and indeed society at large. They enabled him to reach out in meaningful and constructive ways to other churches.
“His membership and scholarly contribution to the conclusions of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission were an example of this. Much to his delight the fruits of his work were captured this year in the publication of all five ARCIC documents in one volume. His conviction that unity of mind and heart amongst the followers of Christ were not optional extras but sorely needed in this fragmented world of ours. His gift of hospitality. He took the words of Jesus seriously “Love one another as I have loved you”. These gifts, and the generous way in which he used them, were expressive of the fact that he liked people and liked being with them. He drew the best from others and gave them nothing but the best of himself in return.”
The readings given at the Requiem were Ephesians 3:14-19 and John 15:12-17. Archbishop Stack said that the Cardinal, who had made arrangements for his own funeral during his last days, chose the reading from St. John’s gospel “because of his belief that we do not choose God, but God chooses us, earthenware vessels that we are, to be signs, and servants and instruments of his presence in the midst of his people. “You did not choose me, but I chose you that you should go and bear much fruit”. “
Cardinal Cormac was buried in the nave of the cathedral, dressed in vestments for Mass, and with his pallium, the stole made of lamb’s wool, given to him when he was first appointed a bishop and representing the pastor carrying sheep on his shoulder. Also in the coffin, as is traditional for a Catholic bishop, was a rogito, or small scroll which describes his life.
The Requiem Mass was unusual because Cardinal Cormac was the first Archbishop of Westminster not to die in office, but in retirement and the first where his successor archbishop presided at the requiem. It was preceded by Vespers, the night before, after the cardinal’s body had been received into the cathedral. The Dean of Westminster, John Hall, gave one of the readings. 

Catherine Pepinster, 13/09/2017

Cardinal Cormac: a farewell 


It was with enormous sadness that we heard the news of Cardinal Cormac's passing. Looking back over his life from the City of Rome, the loss seems even greater. Cormac was himself a graduate of the Venerable English College and of the Gregorian University and then later Rector of the College himself. When he greeted you at the College even later in his ministry when he was a bishop, you almost felt that he was still taking you round his own home. His love for the College and his knowledge of Rome in every possible sense was unique. 
As the lead Roman Catholic ecumenical bishop and then Co-Chair of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, Cormac contributed so significantly to the increasing understanding and closeness between the two Communions. His chairing of the Commission alongside Bishop Mark Santer formed a splendid partnership - the dream ticket - as they say in political caucuses. Mark's theological focus combined with Cormac's broad experience of worldwide Roman Catholicism and his immense geniality led to remarkably productive years with ARCIC II being responsible for five key agreed statements - Salvation and the Church, The Church as Communion, Life in Christ: Morals, Communion and the Church, The Gift of Authority and Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ. Although the final document was released under a later chairman, the preliminary work had been under Cormac's co-chairmanship.
abc and cardinalCormac brought all these gifts to bear when he was nominated by Pope John Paul II to succeed Cardinal Basil Hume as Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. Basil Hume had established the role of Archbishop of Westminster in a remarkable way to set the Roman Catholic Church more prominently within the public life of England and Wales. Cardinal Cormac built on this and used his own gifts to the full in consolidating the work of his predecessor. As a key public figure, he spoke on crucial issues and became again part of the fabric of civic and national life. Often people might remark, before an event, 'What will this evening be like? Will it be all right? Are there any tensions around?' 'Oh, it'll be fine', would come the reply, 'Cormac's going to be there.' His humour, his real empathy with people, his warmth and his authentic care and concern were always manifest. 

IMG1486As a co-Patron of the Anglican Centre in Rome, he was not simply supportive in theory, but active and present in the Centre's activities on countless occasions. Last year when the Centre celebrated its Golden Jubilee, he was at both the service in Westminster Abbey and afterwards at the celebratory dinner at Lambeth Palace. There was something eminently loveable about Cormac and I will be just one among thousands who will feel that they have lost a really good friend and someone entirely immersed in the love of Christ.

Cormac at abbey
+ Stephen Platten
Chair of the Governors of the Anglican Centre in Rome.

Stephen Platten, 01/09/2017

I thank God for you all 

DM farewell greet

I have the privilege of sharing some thoughts with you for the last time, as Director to the readers of the ACR blog on our website. I have now completed my term as ACR director and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See. Looking back I can honestly say that it has all been an immense privilege. We are so blessed to be witnessing a friendship between Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin at this time, as Christian brothers and global leaders  who are seeking the common good together. I leave Rome with a full and thankful heart, that notwithstanding the difficulties and frailties of human beings we are being guided , by an invisible hand that has a nail hole in the centre of it, but also shines with a light that the darkness cannot overcome.

I had an emotional farewell with the Holy Father on Friday which I will always remember as long as I live. We talked about the progress being made by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission stage three, following the recent meeting in Erfurt, Germany, where Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk and teacher; ARCIC III has just produced a draft text on shared ecclesiology principles. We talked of the hopes that there are in Christ between us, for a deeper re-integrated diversity as we look to a church fully reconciled in God’s good time. I said that I had received  so much from my time in Rome from his example and courage, his vision and creativity. The church is on the move because of prophetic, servant, leadership like his and Archbishop Justin’s. Then Pope Francis met my family and the staff and friends of the Anglican Centre and led us all in the Lord's Prayer.

DM farewell prayer
I gave Pope Francis a carved a Maori wooden cross which had signs of his Franciscan vocation, gathering threads that interweave together in our ecumenical efforts, and the two different but complementary strengths of our respective communions are needed in God’s Kingdom today.
DM farewell gift

Pope Francis also received the copy of our new ACR book by Mary Reath  “An Open Door” which tells our story so well in recent years around presence, hospitality, education, best practice, collaboration and diplomacy. As the audience finished, some of us sang, in Maori, a song about Mary as the mother of the Christian world. I know that my successor Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi will share an equally good link with the successor of Peter.

DM farewell song
I have learned that it is only through incarnating love in prayer, Christian friendship and the fruits it brings, that there is the room to transform, to heal and to bring in a new creation. The ACR is a crucial base for creative life-giving friendships in Rome and beyond; an urgent presence as the world gets smaller and our need to act together grows stronger. This has been my experience over the years for which, as I leave,  I thank God with all my heart. I am so deeply grateful to all of you who have been such supportive friends and who have been such great supporters of this mission here. I have been blessed with an exceptional staff team and so name and hold up the work of Fr Marcus Walker, Louise Hettiche , Luca De Gasperis, Juliette Anderson, Anita Mancia and the ACR board chaired by Bishop Stephen Platten, with the Revd Barry Nichols as company secretary and The Revd Martin Macdonald as treasurer, together with great Governors, officers, friends and members from all over the world. In and through all of this Archbishop Justin and his team have been so supportive and invigorating; an extraordinary gift. I have been blessed by so many colleagues, Anglican and Roman Catholic.
I thank God for you all.

David Moxon, 21/06/2017

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