Letter: Tribute to Hume

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Andrew Brown ("The qualifications of a modern holy man", 19 June) hits the nail on the head when he says that Cardinal Basil Hume's holiness was hard work and cost him a great deal.

An Anglican Bishop challenged me on the day of Abbot Hume's appointment to Westminster for claiming that it was an excellent appointment. He rightly said I didn't know the Abbot well enough. I explained, quite simply, that it had to do with holiness. "When he was 18, with his personality, education and contacts, he had the world at his feet; he gave it all up to become a monk. Now he has even been called to give up living as a monk."

It was hard work, but he gave himself fully to the priests and people of his diocese of Westminster without ever losing any of his love for his community at Ampleforth. His tomb in St Gregory's Chapel of Westminster Cathedral will be a memorial to this aspect of his holiness.

He once told some students who asked him about going to the House of Lords, "I want to be buried in my monk's habit, not in ermine." But, when he knew that he would die as Archbishop, he made arrangments to be buried in his Cathedral.

Holiness is hard work and often difficult to understand. Cardinal Hume's great achievement has been to show thousands of people that you can be holy and still remain very much a human English person.


Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria

The writer was Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, 1974-1992