Respected Cardinal Dies

Article excerpt

London

Basil Hume, who died of cancer in hospital on June 17 at the age of 76, never wanted to lead the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales and he certainly had no designs on the papacy though he was often talked about as "papabile".

A diffident Benedictine priest who would have been happy to spend his life at his beloved Ampleforth Abbey in north Yorkshire, he was the surprise choice in 1976 to take over from the pugnacious John Heenan as Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster.

Despite his initial misgivings and a charming awkwardness at the announcement of his elevation, Basil Hume went on to win a national and international reputation among bishops, politicians and believers of all denominations as a wise, compassionate and pragmatic man of God.

His appointment to Westminster was a moment of genius by the Vatican. As abbot of Ampleforth he had made a mark in church circles as a thinker, but he was virtually unknown in the outside world. Yet his humility, his charisma, his patent absence of any personal ambition and, most of all, his air of one who walked in God's shadow, quickly won him a place in English hearts. …