Queen to miss Hume service

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The Independent Online
DESPITE HER obvious respect and affection for Cardinal Basil Hume, on whom she conferred an Order of Merit shortly before his death, the Queen will not be attending his funeral today.

Instead, the Duchess of Kent will represent the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh. Princess Michael of Kent will be the only other royal at the service, although the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York will be sending representatives.

The Queen, who by tradition does not attend non-state funerals, has worshipped alongside the Archbishop of West- minster. In July 1995 she attended an ecumenical 45-minute Vesper service conducted by Cardinal Hume to mark the 100th anniversary of Westminster Cathedral.

But today she will not be among the 2,000 people expected to gather at the cathedral to remember the man who led Roman Catholics in England and Wales for more than two decades or to watch him buried as he wished - in a simple monk's habit.

Cardinal Hume, so often commended for his humility, had chosen a young woman he met in Lourdes 12 years ago to deliver a reading at his funeral mass. As he lay dying of inoperable abdominal cancer last week, he chose Maeve Lynch, 26, a teacher from St Patrick's school, Kentish Town, to give the second reading from the first letter of St Paul to the Corinthians.

Tony Blair and his wife Cherie, a practising Catholic, and the Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, will be among the mourners. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, and other Church of England bishops, including the bishops of Peterborough and Birmingham, will also be present.

The two-and-a-half-hour mass, meticulously planned by the Cardinal, will be co-celebrated by 500 Catholic clergy, led by the Pope's representative, Cardinal Edward Cassidy.