By Richard Shaw
CARDINAL Corrnac MurphyO'Connor may be planning to buy a house in the London suburbs to replace the bolthole that he wished to sell off last year, it has been claimed.
The Archbishop of Westminster announced his intention last autumn to sell Hare Street House in Cambridgeshire and purchase a small private place nearer his official residence at Archbishop's House, adjacent to Westminster Cathedral in Victoria, London.
It is rumoured in the archdiocese that he is in the process of buying a house, but it is still unclear where.
Some suggest it could be at Mill Hill in Hertfordshire, which is well-connected to London by motorway and rail and is also near the diocesan pastoral centre at London Colney.
Others believe the cardinal is interested in a property in Twickenham, South West London, perhaps in the grounds of nearby Roehampton, London.
Both sites would have the advantage of a beautiful location and nearby greenery and golf courses, which the cardinal is known to enjoy.
Both are also much closet to the cathedral than Hare Street. taking about 40 minutes to reach by car.
Since Hare Street remains unsold, its price has not provided the funds for the purchase.
This has increased speculation as to whether a purchase is going ahead at all; for it is unclear whether the new site is actually being purchased by the archdiocese, or whether the cardinal is buying it himself, or even whether it is a gift left in an inheritance or from former parishioners.
All these options could be possible at this stage and rumours continue to fly.
One source suggested that because three years ago, the archdiocese came out of debt for the first time ever, and property could be a reliable investment for the future.
Archbishop's House was unavailable for comment and since the house, or possibly just large flat, is supposed to be a private place in which the cardinal can relax, it is unlikely its exact location will ever be revealed to the public.
Hare Street was left to the archbishops of Westminster by Mgr Robert Hugh Benson, the son of an archbishop of Canterbury, and well-known writer, artist and craftsman, who converted to Catholicism before he died at the young age of 43 in 1914.
The building has two chapels, one created by Mgr Benson and adorned with his sculptures and another built over his tomb by Cardinal Archbishop Francis Bourne.
Pope Pius X11 asked Cardinal Bernard Griffin in 1950 to allow the house to be used as a bolt-hole for priests to rest from the intensity of innercity parish life and the site is still used and loved by the diocese's clergy.
Groups of priests in support groups go there for retreats on a regular basis and many have spoken of their sadness that the house is to be sold.
Due to the uncertainty surrounding the nature of the new hide-away for the cardinal, however, Hare Street may now even survive, thereby pleasing all parties.