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I met Paul Goggins on a freezing Friday night in November 2012 in Manchester. We were addressing a gathering of the Manchester University Catholic Chaplaincy’s Faith and Politics Society, a lively group of students who after the talk braved the cold and slept rough to raise money for charity.
During his talk, Goggins spoke eloquently about his faith. It was not some pious “faith is really important” waffle that you often here from public figures, but the words of someone who had tried to live out his Christianity.
At one point he quoted Psalm 34 – which talks of God hearing the cry of the poor – when he encouraged the students to put their faith into action. He impressed me with his down-to-earth style and his belief that politics is a way to serve others.
And it was a further sign of his decency that he took the time to talk to the students at Manchester, given it was just outside the Wythenshawe and Sale East constituency he represented from 1997 until his death yesterday.
His death at 60 is a loss to the Church as much as to politics. The Catholic MP, who went against the grain to vote against same-sex marriage in keeping with the wishes of the Bishops of England and Wales, was a big supporter of Catholic causes. This included a stint on the board of the charity Cafod from 1998-2003, and at the time of his death he was chairman of trustees of the Cardinal Hume Centre. After holding two ministerial posts he had developed significant skills and expertise, and gave of these freely.
Goggins will be sorely missed but let’s hope his life might inspire others – maybe even some of those he addressed at the chaplaincy in Manchester – to follow in his footsteps.