Former leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, has died aged 85, it was announced yesterday.
His successor Cardinal Vincent Nichols , to bishops in England and Wales on Friday said: “I am writing to let you know the sad news that Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor died peacefully this afternoon, surrounded by his family and friends.”
In a letter to Nichols, published on Friday shortly before his death, Murphy-O’Connor said he had been privileged to serve Catholic clergy and laity as their bishop.
“At this time, the words I pray every night are never far from my thoughts: ‘Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.’ Please tell them that I am at peace and have no fear of what is to come. I have received many blessings in my life, especially from my family and friends.
“I thank God for the many priests, religious and lay faithful who have helped and sustained me in my Episcopal life. Nor should I forget the many Anglican and Free Church colleagues whose friendship I have valued very much. “theguardian added”.
Church spokesman has said,Murphy-O’Connor became seriously ill and was admitted to hospital a fortnight ago.
The cardinal was the head of the Catholic church in England and Wales from 2000 until 2009. He was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2001.
He was born on 24 August 1932 in Reading, Berkshire, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor was one of six children. Two of his brothers became priests while another played rugby for Ireland. He was ordained priest in Rome in October 1956 and was made Cardinal in 2001 by Pope John Paul II.
Murphy-O’Connor was one of three brothers from an Irish family who became priests after growing up in Reading, Berkshire.
In the Vatican, he was a close ally of fellow cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who was elected as Pope Francis in 2013, although Murphy-O’Connor was ineligible to vote as he was by then over 80.
Soon after succeeding Basil Hume as the Catholic leader in England and Wales, Murphy-O’Connor became embroiled in controversy over his handling in the 1980s of a paedophile priest, Fr Michael Hill, in his previous diocese of Arundel and Brighton.