BY LUKE COPPEN
CARDINAL Cormac MurphyO'Connor has paid tribute to the Duke of Norfolk, Britain's most senior lay Catholic, who died on Monday night aged 86.
The Cardinal, who befriended the Duke during his 22-year term as Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, said: "It was with the greatest sadness that I learnt of the death of Miles, Duke of Norfolk. He was a true Christian gentleman in the real sense of those words.
"His faith permeated his whole life and he was extraordinarily generous in the time and effort he gave to charitable work.
`The Catholic Church in this 1country was glad to have him as its most distinguished layman and he will be deeply missed. I was happy to be included among his close friends. My deepest sympathy and prayers are with his wife, Anne, and all the Norfolk family."
The Duke of Norfolk was, for many decades, a very influential figure within the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
'But he himself played down the significant role he was said to have played in the appointments of Cardinal Basil Hume and Cardinal Cormac MurphyO'Connor to Westminster.
A chairman of trustees of the liberal weekly, The Tablet, the Duke championed many of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, including a greater role for lay people. He privately opposed Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae, and was famously quoted as saying that natural family planning "didn't bloody work". The comments led to calls for his resignation as chairman of the Catholic Union.
In the House of Lords, the Duke waged a successful campaign to prevent the Tory government introducing charges for Catholic children who travelled to school by bus. He also led the battle in the Upper House against the lowering of the age of homosexual consent, the liberalisation of the abortion law and the official approval of research on human embryos.
In March 1998, the Duke hit the headlines when he said that the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was "too clever" to risk losing Protestant support by becoming a Catholic.
Gerard Noel, editorial director of The Catholic Herald and a longstanding friend of the Duke, said the Duke would be sorely missed.
"Apart from being a very jolly person, he was an immensely devout Catholic," he said. "He wore it lightly on the surface, but he would never miss Mass on Sunday and he used to go to Mass every day during Lent."