BY PETER JENNINGS
A FUNERAL Mass for Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville was held in the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, in Birmingham, on the morning of Wednesday November 21.
The Most Reverend Maurice Noel Leon Couve de Murville, Archbishop Emeritus of Birmingham, died on Saturday November 3, aged 78.
He was the seventh Archbishop of Birmingham, having served as spiritual leader of the diocese from March 1982 until June 1999, when he resigned on grounds of ill-health.
A large number of bishops. active and retired, attended the funeral, a witness to the tremendous affection in which Archbishop Couve de Murville was held across the country.
Priest and deacons from the archdiocese and wider afield filled both side aisles of the Pugin cathedral a church that Archbishop Couve de Murville had done so much to brighten and enhance.
Cardinal Cormac MurphyO'Connor and the Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain, Archbishop Faustino Sainz Munoz, were on the sanctuary. The Cardinal led the Final Commendation.
Bishop Kieran Corny of Arundel and Brighton, a former administrator of St Chad's Cathedral, gave the homily. He said: "I hope that the memories that we carry away from this farewell will be of affection, admiration and respect for all that Maurice achieved.
"The late archbishop knew that it was his task to preach the faith, and he did it with enthusiasm and energy. This cathedral, restored after its modernisation in the 1960s. is testimony to that energy.
"Today, when we are at risk of losing our confidence in the face, not just of indifference and apathy, but now a genuine suspicion of and hostility towards religion. we are called on not only to hold our nerve, but to go out to those who have strayed, to those in tears and despair, and bring them back.
"Archbishop Maurice undoubtedly longed for the appearing of his Lord. Let us keep this memory of him alive."
Popular hymns were sung with gusto by the whole congregation, including Cardinal Newman's "Praise to the Holiest in the Height" and, at Communion, "Soul of My Saviour".
When the coffin was lifted from its imposing catafalque and borne aloft outside St Chad's Cathedral, all the bishops, priests and deacons formed an honour guard for Archbishop Maurice's mortal remains as they were placed in the hearse.
Archbishop Couve de Murville was then buried in the cemetery at St Mary's College, Oscott, the diocesan seminary, a place dear to his heart, on the outskirts of Birmingham.
Two days earlier, the body of Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville had been formally recieved into St Chad's.
At that ceremony, the canons of St Chad's, in full choir dress, headed a procession that included Auxiliary Bishop Philip Pargeter of Birmingham. Bishop Terence Brain of Salford and Auxiliary Bishop George Stack of Westminster.
Priests and parishioners from parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Birmingham were present in the cathedral and took part in a poignant Evening Prayer for the Dead.
A homily was given by Bishop Leo McCartie, Bishop Emeritus of Northampton and himself a former auxiliary bishop of Birmingham.
Archbishop Couve de Murville's assiduous work with secondary schools of the diocese was remembered with a special Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Vincent Nichols on Tuesday November 20.
Headteachers, members of staff and pupils from schools of the Archdiocese of Birmingham packed the cathedral. The altar servers, the readers and those in the offertory procession were all drawn from the ranks of the diocese's school The homily was given by Fr Giles Goward, parish priest of Caversham, near Reading, a former Anglican who had served as secretary to Archbishop Couve de Murville from 1996 until the archbishop retired in 1999.
He said: "Archbishop Maurice wanted religious education to be taught in schools just as rigorously as any other academic subject so that pupils and students had the tools that they needed to make sense of the experience of religions. That is why he took such an interest in the RE syllabus that was used.
"The schools you attend owe a lot to him and to his vision of placing education at the centre of what he did as archbishop.
"So, even if you don't remember him, please remember to say a prayer for him." That evening Bishop Pargeter led a Vigil Mass for the repose of the soul of Archbishop Couve de Murville, held at St Chad's.
Among the concelebrants were priests from across the diocese, Bishop Kevin Dunn of Hexham and Newcastle, a former episcopal vicar in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, Bishop Malcolm McMahan of Nottingham and Auxiliary Bishop William Kenney of Birmingham.
During his homily Bishop Pargeter said: "I remember Archbishop Maurice when I was Rector at Cotton College, later administrator of St Chad's Cathedral and then for nine years his auxiliary bishop. He gave me wise counsel."