Page 5, 24th August 2007

24th August 2007
Page 5
Page 5, 24th August 2007 — Happy 75th birthday, Your Eminence

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Organisations: G8, English College in Rome


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Happy 75th birthday, Your Eminence

Leading British Catholics wish Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor well as he celebrates his 75th today

Chris Bain, Director of Cafod: Cafod supporters will mark Cardinal Cormac's birthday by celebrating his unstinting commitment to tackling poverty and injustice — wherever it's found.

I have been with him in Downing Street on several occasions as he urged Prime Minister Tony Blair to do more for the world's poor, and walked alongside him as he led a quarter of million people around the streets of Edinburgh to challenge the G8 leaders to double aid and cancel debt.

His influence in Rome and the Treasury led to a major conference in the Vatican promoting the Millennium Development Goals where Gordon Brown delivered the keynote speech.

A profound and fond memory of mine is a week spent with the Cardinal visiting Cafod's Tsunami programme in Sri Lanka. Having never seen a cardinal before, survivors clearly looked impressed with the tall man in white flowing robes. He met with fishing families in their new homes and listened to their stories of tragedy and was visibly moved. His presence and his words gave them inspiration and hope.

So, Fr Cormac, this Friday I'll raise a wee dram of malt and toast your health and your continued passion for justice and charity.

Dom Aidan Bellenger, Abbot of Downside: Cardinal Cormac's ability to make himself at home and engage all in friendly conversation are among his most marked characteristics. He shows an accessibility not always historically associated with cardinals. When he came to Downside last year to mark our community's fourth centenary by presiding at our patronal feast and preaching a memorable sermon on Benedictine life, the fact that he was an old boy of our rival school, Prior Park, seemed far less important than his intuitive understanding of the spirit of the Catholic community. Bishops can appear to be managers rather than pastors, but not in Cormac's case.

At Downside, he showed interest in the numerous episcopal tombs (including one of a cardinal) in our abbey church and I hope, many years from now, that his own epitaph will emphasise his pastoral care. Perhaps the one for Bishop Baines at Downside, the founder of Prior Park, might suffice: Inter Fratres.

Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need: The Cardinal's hat is red — the colour of the blood of the martyrs — and, over the years of his priestly ministry, Cardinal Cormac has made a point of witnessing to the sufferings, needs, perseverance and hopes of the faithful. He once told me how he met the founder of Aid to the Church in Need — Fr Werenfried van Straaten, the "Bacon Priest" — when he was in Arundel and Brighton. In 2003 he celebrated the Memorial Mass for Fr Werenfried in Westminster Cathedral and spoke of his witness of love.

On behalf of Aid to the Church in Need we pray that Cardinal Cormac will have a blessed and enjoyable birthday. We are grateful for his witness and support. He called ACN "a marvellous instrument for providing pastoral relief and care to needy and oppressed churches". May he continue — for many years yet — to proclaim the Gospel message of the Cross and Resurrection, even amid the challenges, sufferings and conflicts of today's world.

Mgr Mark Langham, Administrator of Westminster Cathedral: One of the privileges in working at Westminster Cathedral is the contact it brings with the Archbishop.

Although his duties range wider, there remains a particular link with the symbolic seat of his authority. We chaplains are fortunate to see Cardinal Cormac regularly, to be present at the ceremonies where he presides and preaches, and to come to know him more informally.

As Administrator I have drawn greatly upon his advice and his impressive ability to see issues in the widest possible context.

The Cardinal is always supportive and frequently challenging, and with his guidance the Cathedral has undertaken new initiatives to spread the Gospel and bring people to prayer. But above all, for me and the Cathedral clergy, the Cardinal's evident concern for his priests, his consistently positive outlook and his unfailing approachability, have been an inspiration and a joy.

Archbishop Kevin McDonald of Southwark: I am happy to offer my warmest congratulations to Cardinal Cormac on his 75th birthday.

I have known him since he came to the English College in Rome as Rector when I was a student there. He was very energetic and very committed to developing a new pattern and structure for seminary life.

In his episcopal ministry he has likewise been tireless in his efforts to renew the life of the diocese both in Arundel and Brighton and in Westminster. Underlying all his efforts is a deep love for the Church and a deep personal faith in Jesus Christ.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham: Throughout his years of ministry, but especially as bishop and Cardinal, he has always shown amazing energy, enthusiasm and vitality. He continues to do so.

His achievement as cochairman of ARCIC stands out among the many initiatives he has taken. Even now, he comes forward with a steady supply of new ideas and proposals.

I thank God for his continuing ministry and great strength of faith. Happy birthday, Cormac.

Gerard Noel, editorial director of The Catholic Herald: I am delighted to be asked to add my tribute and best wishes to the Cardinal on his approaching 75th birthday.

We first became friends in the 1950s in Rome as students, he at the English College, myself at the Beth. We met once or twice a year in Rome in the 1970s when he was Rector of the Venerabile and I was editing The Catholic Herald.

He was an outstanding Rector at a sensitive and difficult transitional period in post-conciliar Catholic development. He was the choice of Rome's seminarians as a whole to express their point of view if ever a representation to the Pope was deemed advisable. Apart from his other skills. he was renowned for his dexterity in the mixing of a Negroni ("Venerabile") cocktail: I did not see a great deal of Cormac until he became Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, when he became a close friend of Miles Norfolk. We met each year at the Corpus Christi celebrations at Arundel.

I was naturally overjoyed when he emerged as the overwhelming choice, especially in Rome, for the role of Archbishop of Westminster. His outstanding success in this position is largely due to his down-to-earth handling of affairs, immensely approachable nature and reversal of all previous tendencies to cover up abuses. He is. moreover, too genuine a figure to pose as an ecclesiastical "character" or "professional mint".

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh: Very sincere best wishes for a happy birthday. Cormac. One of our shared responsibilities is flying round the world and I admire you tremendously for the way in which you do this, especially, of course, on our frequent trips to Rome.

Like myself, I arn sure you appreciate the comfort of your own bed and home, particularly in the apparently increased crushed conditions of many of our aircraft! Consequently, a birthday wish for you: as we cannot cut off our legs, then let us try to cut down on the flying!

Piers Paul Read, writer: My very best wishes to Cardinal Cormac on his 75th birthday.

It cannot have been easy for him to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, Cardinal Hume, but he quickly captivated the Catholic community in Westminster with his modesty and charm, and enlivened it with vigorous initiatives such as At Your Word, Lorrl: our group still meets to pray and debate the issues affecting the Church.

Cardinal Cormac's At the Heart of the World, which I reviewed for The Catholic Herald, revealed his charm and distinct charisma. My hope is that in the future he will write more for he surely has more — much more — to say.

Stephen Wall, former adviser to the Cardinal: The Cardinal's charm immediately strikes all who meet him. It comes naturally; he is a very warm person. But charm is not the same thing as putting yourself out for others, and that is something Cardinal Cormac does in spades.

Like most things done well. he makes it look easy. But it involves hard work and real professionalism. During the year I worked for him. my wife and I accompanied the Cardinal to a medical dinner at a big London hotel where he was to make a major speech to about 200 guests.

All he needed to do was arrive, make the speech and leave. By the time he did leave, about three hours later, he had gone around and spoken to every person in that room.

I heard a couple comment that they had expected a cardinal to be a dry old stick and had been delighted to fmd a warm human being. That is Cardinal Cormac in a nutshell: warm-hearted, outgoing and dedicated.

John Wilkins, former editor of The Tablet I had a dinner date with friends on Thursday this week. We looked forward to raising a glass to you after midnight — though the contents are likely to be less complex than one of your famous cocktails. When I was editor of The Tablet I always felt encouraged by my encounters with you as bishop and archbishop. You like people and I would leave feeling heartened. You would also sometimes warn — though you did so, in the phrase of Sir Stephen Wall, with honey rather than with vinegar.

I must thank you also for ensuring that I, like so many others, have got to know my fellow parishioners better through the At Your Word, Lord programme you instituted in your Westminster diocese. It was an eye-opener to join those small, intimate gatherings where all present shared what they thought and believed.

If you had not been a man of resilient faith, you could not have survived the battering you took during the clerical sex abuse crisis. The Nolan Report which you commissioned saved the situation in this country. You spoke then of -the sa.dness and trial of being a bishop". But you chose as yotnepiscopal motto "joy and hope", and you have been true to that.

Editorial Comment: Page 11

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