Page 1, 26th June 1953

26th June 1953
Page 1
Page 1, 26th June 1953 — 'A PAGE OF HISTORY HAS BEEN TURNED'

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Organisations: Metropolitan Chapter


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By Mgr. Cyril Taylor

Secretary to the Late Archbishop Downey

WHEN Archbishop Downey's

" body was borne down to the crypt of the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, one felt that a page of history had been turned.

For a week since his death there had been added to the natural sadness a feeling that the ecclesiastical and civic life of Liverpool had lost a figure who could never adequately be replaced.

Catholics universally—but, perhaps, in a particular way, the Catholics of Lancashire—are demonstrative of their love and loyalty to their Bishops; but the late Dr. Downey, accustomed as he was in life to immense crowds, never drew a larger one than in death. Of this, the lyingin-state was revealing—some people put the numbers who filed through the Pro-Cathedral as high as 300,000 —but the obsequies surpassed all expectations.


All classes, and indeed an creeds. were in that sad procession of mourners that passed the catafalque. Some of the Catholic men who watched beside it had sacrificed half a day's pay to be there. The time for the lying-in-state had to be extended for two hours until midnight on Monday, but it was not continued on Tuesday morning, as had been planned.

Many willing hands worked until Iwo o'clock on Tuesday to make the Pro-Cathedral ready for the day's solemn ceremonies.

As the day dawned bright and warm, people were already queueing at the Metropolitan Cathedral site. Some went to the Pro-Cathedral in the hope of getting one of the 900 seats there. But there was no room for any but ticket-holders. The Archbishop's passing was showing how urgent was the need for that great Cathedral in the North for which he had pleaded and striven.

Six -hundred a n d seventy-five priests, secular and regular, and religious brothers of the diocese and far beyond, assembled to take their rightful place at the obsequies.


The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster presided, and the Apostolic Delegate to Great Britain, pontificated, in the presence of 14 members of the episcopate, six mitred Abbots —the Abbots of Downside, Ampleforth, Donai, Fort Augustus, Belmont and Mount St. Bernard—and some 30 Prelates and Canons.

To the disappointment of many, the attendance of the laity had to be severely restricted to representative persons—fewer than 200 gained admittance.

The City of Liverpool, which had long since acclaimed the late ArchhiShop, was represented by the Lord Mayor, the Town Clerk, the Director of Education, the Chief Constable and numerous Aldermen, Councillors and businessmen, while the University — which recently honoured the Archbishop by an honorary degree, which he never lived to receive—sent four of its most distinguished members. All walks of fife were there in the delegates from diocesan societies. The communities of religious sisters had their place.

Meanwhile, some 20,000 Catholics had assembled on the nine-acre site of the new Cathedral in Brownlow Hill, where all the ceremonies were heard over amplifiers.


Promptly at II o'clock Cardinal Griffin took his place at the throne, and Mass began. Diocesan priests directed by Fr. E. Murphy (Director of Music) formed the choir.

The panegyric was given by the late Archbishop's life-long friend and fellow bishop. Bishop Flynn of Lancaster.

Then followed the five absolutions at the catafalque given by the suffragen bishops of Lancaster, Salford and Hexham and Newcastle, the Archbishop of Cardiff and Cardinal Griffin.

Then. slowly the cortege formed up headed by four mounted policemen. The Liverpool City Police Band. played the Dead March in Saul and Chopin's Funeral March. The procession of clergy and religious took more than half an hour to travel the quarter of a mile to the Cathedral site. Canons, Prelates and members of the episcopate followed in more than 30 cars. The hearse was followed by the cars bearing the chief mourners and public representatives. Front the entrance to the Cathedral site the journey to the crypt was made on foot.


All the route through the city was thickly lined with mourners. Groups of schoolchildren said the Rosary.

The Vicar Capitular. Bishop Halsail, awaited the arrival of the cortege on the steps of the temporary altar. This had been erected 20 years ago for the solemn laying of the Metropolitan Cathedral foundation stone in 1933—the last occasion on which a Cardinal -Prince of the Church had attended a solemn function in Liverpool, Bishop Halsall led the recitation of the De Profundis in English.

Police trumpeters sounded the "Last Post," as the Archbishop's body was taken down to the tomb, 50 feet below ground. near that of

Liverpool's first Archbishop, Dr. Whiteside. in this final procession walked Canons of the Metropolitan Chapter and the Provost, the late Archbishop's sisters, members of his household and representatives of the nursing home where he died.

The Cardinal. the Apostolic Delegate and the other Bishops watched from the head of the steps to the crypt.

Bishop Halsall carried _ out the short ceremony of committal. The rolling gate of the crypt was closed. Above, the huge assembly of mourners began to disperse as the notes of "Reveille" sounded on the trumpets, across the site where one day the Cathedral Archbishop Downey planned will rise as his lasting memorial.

Farther reports page 8

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