THE appointment of Mgr. Griffin, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, to the chief
See of this country caused general surprise.
The Archbishdp-elect's record as secretary to Archbishop Williams, Administrator of Fr. Hudson's Homes, Coleshill, and as Auxiliary Bishop was not generally known in the country. It was not realised that he had always accomplished, and accomplished with conspicuous success, the work of at least three normal men. It was not known that he was the kind of person who, virtually alone in the country, could manage to see completed under war conditions the building of a great church such as the one that stands today in Colcsh ill.
'But the surprise was undoubtedly also due to the fact that Bishop Griffin did not look the part. Cheerful and bright, he did not look in the tradition of great prelates. He did not seem the man of outstanding qualities of leadership. Rather than an impressive figure, he seemed a young and inexperienced prelate very much framed in the administrative business of local affairs.
This may be said now, without any disrespect to his memory, because the fact actually gives the correct measure to the remarkable accomplishment of his life. It is easy for the man of parts to be a great leader and even to hide tinder arresting appearance and manner actual deficiencies. It is extremely difficult to rise not only to singular leadership but to carry through authoritative and great work in spite of the lack of such largely accidental advantages.
To make things worse, the late Cardinal, despite the early appearance of buoyancy and exceptional health. was, as we know, afflicted with very poor health which, through his own overwork, very nearly led to fatal consequences at the prime of his life and which has now taken him from us while still, in the natural order, full of years of work, ONE may reasonably guess that the Holy See chose Bishop Griffin for the great office, at a moment when the Allied victory seemed certain. because a social revolution of decisive magnitude was in the making. Youth, experience of the details of social and administrative work, both ecclesiastical and secular, and a record of outstanding success in this field were doubtless felt to be the first requirements of the postwar Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster.
The Cardinal's whole life and work, despite purely accidental disadvantages, have proved a remarkable vindication of the Holy See's judgment.
Largely behind the scenes, Cardinal Griffin continuously handled the manifold difficult problems arising from the relation between Church and State at this fluid and experimental period of our history. The fact is that he had no failure; unless the educational problem, the shape of which was already settled before his elevation, may be counted one. Arid even there his second string, the Central Schools Fund, has proved a marked success.
When we turn to the other great work which fell to him after the war, the renewal of international relations, ecclesiastical and often even secular, which as the Cardinal leader of British Catholics fell in such large measure on his shoulders, we cannot but be lost in admiration at what he accomplished. Not only did he admirably play the part of an official ambassador where circumstances were
easy, but he displayed high statesmanlike qualities and great courage where relations with former enemy countries and countries being absorbed into the Communist tyranny were concerned.
THERE is no space here to de"tail that success. What we would prefer to underline is the spiritual and moral quality of a great Cardinal who, utterly heedless of all difficulties, tackled with a single mind and purpose not only the mountain of work involved, but the toughest and most complex problems.
For our part, we have not the smallest doubt that Cardinal Griffin was enabled to do this with such singular success for the simplest, but also the deepest, of all reasons: an utter faith in Almighty God. nurtured and fed throughout his life by prayer, devotion and complete dedication. His great devotion to St. Teresa of 1..isieux became wellknown, but how completely Teresian in spirit his whole life was could not he such common knowledge. He never thought of himself as other than a child utterly in God's hands, And, as though to prove the authenticity and depth of this Teresian spirit in him, God permitted that the way in which he carried out his responsibilities should directly lead him through the fire of a suffering which. in its.external manifestation, made him for a time literally helpless— a child again of suffering who could only live through the ministrations of others, from the humblest possible to the most expert in the medical field.
Yet from such prostration and suffering, whose apostolic value is not in doubt, he could astound those about him by rising to the call to work. When appointed the Pope's Legate for the Hierarchy's Centenary, his courage was astonishing. He simply left his bed of sickness to fulfil the
onerous task. In all this, he himself had no doubts that God called him to accept the continuing burden. however handicapped and perhaps unhappy he might be. God. he felt, either directly through making his work literally impossible. or through the Holy See, would declare when his task was to be ended—aesit now has been.
\,v F. may be permitted to end this short tribute by underlining one aspect of the late Cardinal's mind and feeling of which we can speak with a personal knowledge.
A Catholic paper is, directly or indirectly. in regular touch with the Archbishop of Westminster. This particular paper, which has set itself something of a pioneering policy. has not failed in the past to find its critics, in high and less high places.
From Cardinal Griffin it has always had nothing but encouragement. understanding and practical help.
This does not mean that the Cardinal was always in agreement on matters of detail, but he always looked to aims, rather than to petty details, and those aims he was always ready to understand and bless.
One has heard in some quarters that he was narrow-minded. We can only say that in his relations with this paper and its staff he was always breadth itself, and whenever we have been in a position to track reported instances of narrow views. we have found that the Cardinal from behind the scenes was always endeavouring to give constructive and practical help to those who had ideas and believed in the need to get certain things done May he rest in peace !