MGR Henry Francis Davis died, aged 83, on March 27. He was a theologian of international standing, one of the greatest authorities on the life and writings of Cardinal Newman and fluent in several languages.
Following studies at Oscott College, Birmingham, he graduated in Greats at Oxford and obtained a Doctorate in Divinity at Friebourg in Switzerland. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Birmingham in 1928.
For 28 years his main preoccupation was the training of students for the priesthood at Oscott College in Birmingham, where he was vice-rector. During these years he was also a lecturer in theology at Birmingham University.
in the latter years of the War he Was instrumental in the War Office arranging to have German POW's who were students for the priesthood to be brought together in a camp at Colchester.
He directed their studies and on their return to Germany they were ordained as priests on his recommendation. Recently more than 70 of these priests, many of them now Bishops, invited him to Germany to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of their ordination.
His reputation as a theologian was recognised by the Holy See and Pope Pius XII invited him to Rome to discuss with him the dogmatic implications of the Solemn Definition of the doctrine of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, which resulted in the historic. Declaration of 1st November 1950.
During the Second Vatican Council, 1962-1965, he acted as a peritus, ie expert, and held the 'special brief of interpreting the proceedings of the Council to non-Catholic observers who had come to Rome from many parts of the world.
He was totall7, committed to promoting closer relationships between the Catholic Church and other denominations, beginning at a time when such contacts were rare, over 30 years before Vatican II, and work for Ecumenism continued to be an abiding interest for him.
In 1958 Mgr Davis left Oscott to become parish priest of St Gregory the Great, Bearwood, where he proved to be a beloved pastor for 20 years. He was appointed to the country parish of Eynsham, near Oxford, in 1978 and after seven years he retired and returned to live in Birmingham.