OBITUARIES : Mgr Bill Purdy

There could be no mistaking the obviously English cleric making his way through the narrow streets of Rome's centro storico, especially if gazing upwards not so much to the heavens, but at the admirable proportions of a baroque church: it could o nly be Bill Purdy.

William Arthur Purdy was born in Derby in 1911. He left school at 14 to work in the office of a garage. Having expressed a desire to be a priest, he was sent by the Bishop of Nottingham to Panton School in Lincolnshire, and thence to the English College,Rome, at the age of 17.

While in Rome, he obtained a doctorate before his ordination, in 1934. He then returned to England, and spent three years at St Edmund's Hall, Cambridge, gaining a First Class honours degree in history. For 10 years he taught at the Westminster diocesan seminary, St Edmund's College, Ware, before becoming parish priest of St Winefride's, Shepshed, where he remained for a further two years before joining the staff at St Hugh's College, Tollerton.

His academic career then took him back to Rome for the next 30 years; he lectured first of all at the Beda College from 1959 to 1966, before occupying a key Vatican ecumenical post as Assistant for Anglican and Methodist relations at the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. He was much involved in preparing the Agreed Statements and Final Report (1981) of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission and of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Mixed-Marriage Commission, of both of which he was Co-Secretary. He also worked behind the scenes for the Papal visit to Great Britain in 1982.

Bill Purdy's contribution to Anglican-Roman Catholic relations was not inconsiderable. He was an historical interpreter rather than a theological drafter. If the Anglican Roman Catholic Agreed Statements avoid ecumenical cliche, this is in large part dueto Purdy's love of elegant English prose. One particular piece of Vatican drafting must specially be mentioned - Pope John Paul II's approval of the ecumenical method of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission in 1980. Purdy was no great lover of ecclesiastical titles but proud of his English Catholic tradition. Though a Papal Chaplain - a Monsignor - as well as being a Canon of his home diocese of Nottingham, he once said: "Monsignori are two a penny in Rome, but ther e's only one Canon of Nottingham here."

Purdy was also the Rome correspondent of the Tablet for over 25 years from 1960, a frequent contributor to periodicals in Britain and the United States, and the author of two books, Church on the Move (1966) and Seeing and Believing (1976). At the time of his death a further book, Searching for Unity, was being prepared for publication.

His love of cricket properly equalled his commitment to Christian unity. Indeed a car-sticker seen in Rome brought joy to an East Midland archdeacon, if incomprehension to Roman citizens: it read "Support Derbyshire".

Frank Daly and Christopher Hill William Arthur Purdy, priest: born Derby 6 May 1911; ordained 1934; died Derby 17 November 1994.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat