BY CHRISTINA WHITE
THE QUEEN travelled to Newcastle's St Mary's Cathedral on Tuesday afternoon for the historic unveiling of a statue of Cardinal Basil Hume.
The inauguration ceremony, the first time a monarch has honoured a Catholic spiritual leader in this way since the Reformation, marked the culmination of months of planning by Newcastle's civic and religious authorities .
There has been a concerted effort to honour the life and ministry of what Cllr Tony Flynn, the Leader of Newcastle City Council, called "one of the greatest sons of Tyneside".
The Queen was due to unveil sculptor Nigel Boonham's statue after a short ceremony beginning with the reading of the Beatitudes by Diana Gormley, the late Cardinal's niece. Bishop Ambrose Griffiths of Hexham and Newcastle would then read a specially composed prayer of dedication.
The prayer recalled Cardinal Hume as "a tireless pilgrim who travelled further than most yet never lost touch with those who follow". Throughout the ceremony the choir of St Mary's sang the Latin Veni Creator Spiritus.
The Queen's personal admiration for the late Cardinal is well documented.
She referred to him as "my Cardinal" and during his tenure as Archbishop of Westminster broke with established protocal — attending vespers at the Cathedral.
Before his death from cancer in June 1999 she honoured Cardinal Hume with the Order of Merit. The bronze statue of the Cardinal stands over eight foot high. It depicts Basil Hume, in his Benedictine habit, pointing towards the plinth which is carved in the shape of Lindisfarne — Holy Island. It will be floodlit at night.
The statue is situated to the rear of the Cathedral and there are already calls for the surrounding area to be dedicated as the Hume Piazza.
Over £400,000 of public money has been used to fund the memorial project. A £55,000 appeal, the Basil Hume Memorial Trust, was launched two years ago to pay for the bronze statue.
It was kickstarted by a collection among fans at a Newcastle United home game at St James' park, a fitting tribute to a man known for his loyalty to the "Toon army".
On Tuesday morning, the Queen met with pupils at St Joseph's primary school in Jarrow when she opened an official jubilee party for 600 South Tyneside children in the grounds of the school.