Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle leads calls to put Basil Hume on the road to sainthood in the New Year
BY CHRISTINA FARRELL
TIlL cAtisk for sainthood of Cardinal. Basil Hume could be under way next year, just five years after his death from cancer aged 76.
June 17 will mark the fifth anniversary of the Cardinal's death and the earliest date at which, under Church rules, a cause could be opened.
The Cardinal is buried in the Chapel of St Gregory and St Augustine in Westminster Cathedral in London. It is already a place of pilgrimage for many Catholics.
Visitors light candles in the chapel and fresh flowers are placed regularly on the Cardinal's grave, a possible indication of a cult emerging in his honour.
The opening of a cause would be in keeping with the Cardinal's prominence and stature in the Church and was described by one priest, who was close to Cardinal Hume. as completely "logical".
Fr Paul Chavasse, postulator for the cause of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, at the Oratory in Birmingham, said the cause would have to be opened in Westminster archdiocese, where Cardinal Hume died.
"It has to start in the place where he died. If the Cardinal had died in France, for example, the cause would be opened there and then transferred. Cardinal Cormac MurphyO'Connor would have to instigate the cause and a postulator would then be appointed."
In an interview with the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, Bishop Ambrose Griffiths of Hexham and Newcastle said he would personally support an application for sainthood which, he said, would be a great joy" for the people of Newcastle.
Bishop Griffiths said: "By popular estimation, he was a good and holy man and he spoke clearly in ways people could understand and relate to.
"He had a tremendous way with all people. He was open to everybody and expressed profound spiritual sentiments that everyone could understand."
He added: "People in this area do value the ancient saints and to have a saint who is contemporary to us would be a great joy. Cardinal Hume was very fond of the northern saints. He was influenced and inspired by their lives and dedication."
Christine Westmacott. Cardinal Hume's elder sister, told the Chronicle that her brother would have been amused by the prospect of sainthood.
"I think he would laugh about this if he were here now," she said. "It was actually very unexpected that he became an archbishop. People could get very carried away with this but he was a person who was born with many gifts.
"He was very popular butt would be surprised if he were made a saint. He did a very good job because he was intelligent and very sympathetic to people. He always had his mind on the next world."
George Basil Hume was appointed Archbishop of Westminster on February 5, 1976, and named Cardinal two months later. The key events in the English Church that he oversaw included the first papal visit, in 1982, since the Reformation; the entry of more than 200 married Anglican priests into the Church following the ordination of women in the Church of England, and prominent conversions, including the Duchess of Kent and MPs Ann Widdecornbe and John Gununer.
He is credited with bring
ing the Church back into the mainstream of British society and helping to end centuries of prejudice against Catholics.
Shortly before his death the Queen, who referred to Cardinal Hume as "my Cardinal", awarded him the Order of Merit. Last year Her Majesty unveiled a statue of the Cardi
nal outside St Mary's Cathedral in Newcastle.
Pope John Paul II said Cardinal Hume's devoted service to the Church "as well as his witness of dignity and hope in the fare of the mystery of suffering and death" would inspire all who knew him "to ever greater fidelity to the Gospel of salvation".
The influential Archbishop Emeritus of Milan, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini SJ, described the Cardinal as an exemplary bishop for the Church. "He knew that important changes, including ecumenical ones, must be born in the heart," he said.
The son of a FrenchCatholic mother and Scottish Protestant father, Basil Htune was intensely loyal to Newcastle. the city of his birth, and to Ampleforth College, the Benedictine foundation, where he was schoolboy, novice, housemaster and Abbot.
He was buried, at his request, in the plain black hooded habit of the Benedictines. At his Requiem Mass, monks from Ampleforth sang the Suscipe from the Rite of Profession of a monk — the chant with which a monk offers his life to the service of God.
If Cardinal Hume's cause is opened it could be some time before it proceeds.
The cause of John Henry Newman still awaits a mirack before he can be declared Blessed.
Fr Chavasse said: "Not everyone goes as quickly as Mother Teresa. Sometimes it takes hundreds of years."
Hugo Young, the respected Catholic writer and columnist who died earlier this year, was among those who paid tribute to Basil Hume's uniqueness and to his humanity.
Writing in 1999, he said the Cardinal's innate belief in human equality "was a key to the effect he had in a quartercentury of public life. He was not just admired and respected but, in a rare way, loved, and it was because he did not need the protection of a sense of grandeur."
As schoolmaster, Hume would tell parents that Ampleforth would prepare their sons "for death". Hem turn saw his own life as a preparation for the death that would bring salvation.
Hume's successor, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, was unavailable for comment as The Catholic Herald went to press, but a spokesman said the hierarchy would view any moves to canonise Basil Hume as "very positive".