David Amess funeral: Pope hails ‘devoted’ MP as politicians attend Westminster funeral

Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer among politicians at service for the Conservative MP, who was stabbed to death in October

Holly Bancroft,Thomas Kingsley
Tuesday 23 November 2021 19:51
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Anne Widdicombe speaks ahead of Sir David Amess funeral at Westminster Cathedral

The Pope praised Sir David Amess’s “devoted years of service” in a message read out at a Westminster Cathedral service for the Conservative MP who was stabbed to death in a terror attack in October.

The message from Pope Francis praised the politician for his “deep concern for the poor and disadvantaged” and called on mourners to “reject the ways of violence” and “combat evil with good” following the devout Catholic’s death.

Politicians including Boris Johnson, Sir Keir Starmer and three former prime ministers paid their respects to the father-of-five at the service in central London on Tuesday morning, following a private funeral held in Southend-on-Sea, Essex a day earlier.

The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, presided over the ceremony and Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, the Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain, delivered the message from Pope Francis. The message continued: “The Holy Father prays that all who honour his memory will be confirmed in the resolve to reject the ways of violence, to combat evil with good and help build a society of ever greater justice, fraternity and solidarity.”

US congressman Robert Pittenger also read a passage from the Book of Wisdom, a book that is part of the Catholic biblical canon.

The eulogy, given by former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe, a friend of Sir David’s, was well-received as she recalled Sir David’s sense of humour and love for people.

“It was impossible to tear him away from a function because he always wanted to talk to someone else. As a consequence he was always late for everything but also as a consequence he was greatly loved and respected,” she said. “David’s energy never diminished and he was determined to stay on in parliament until he became father of the house so he could be called first in any debate and wear down the government to make Southend a city.”

Ms Widdecombe closed the eulogy: “David Amess fought many good fights, he certainly kept the faith and now, sadly for those left behind but gloriously for him in heaven, David Amess has finished his course.”

Boris Johnson also paid his tribute to Sir David, writing on Twitter: “Today we mourn the death of Sir David Amess, a beloved colleague, public servant and friend, and pay tribute to his immense contribution to politics, to the people of Southend and to this country.”

Charities and groups supported by Sir David Amess were also represented at the funeral, with the Leigh Orpheus Male Voice Choir – of which Sir David was president – leading a hymn in the funeral service programme.

“It was a very appropriate and moving service,” the group’s marketing manager Neil Frost told The Independent. “He’ll be remembered for his service. He was always very generous with his time and his commitment.”

Members of the Leigh Orpheus Male Voice Choir

Following the mass at Westminster Cathedral, Sir David’s body was to be interred during a private service.

Hundreds of people gathered outside Southend’s Civic Centre yesterday to pay their respects as the hearse, led by four black horses, paused in front of it.

Southend West MP Sir David was killed during a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex on 15 October.

Ali Harbi Ali, 25, has been charged with his murder and also with preparing acts of terrorism between 1 May 2019 and 28 September this year.

He is due to enter pleas in December.

Following his death, MPs paid tribute to Sir David in the Commons and a service was held in Sir David’s honour at St Margaret’s Church.

Mr Johnson and Sir Keir were among around 800 politicians in attendance to hear the Archbishop of Canterbury say the “light-lit by public service” provided by MPs like Sir David “must never be put out”.

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