Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor dies peacefully surrounded by family and friends
"I am at peace and have no fear of what is to come," Cardinal says in final message
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the former Archbishop of Westminster has died peacefully on Friday afternoon, surrounded by family and friends.
The announcement was made by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who asked people to pray for the repose of Cardinal Cormac's soul and for his family and many friends who mourn his loss.
Two weeks ago, it was announced that the 85-year-old cardinal was seriously ill and the Church said that his health had taken a "defining turn."
In a message issued on Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor's behalf by Bishop Richard Moth of Arundel and Brighton, a short time before he died, the cardinal said: "At this time, the words I pray every night are never far from my thoughts: 'Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.' Please tell them that I am at peace and have no fear of what is to come.
"I have received many blessings in my life, especially from my family and friends.
I thank God for the many priests, religious and lay faithful who have helped and sustained me in my Episcopal life. Nor should I forget the many Anglican and Free Church colleagues whose friendship I have valued very much.
"Above all, as I now commend myself to the loving mercy of God, I ask them all to pray for me as I remember and pray for them."
The Archbishop of Cardiff, George Stack, who last week celebrated Mass with the cardinal in hospital and had worked with him in Westminster for over ten years, said he was "a man of deep faith, great humility and extraordinary insight." Cardinal Cormac "was always full of compassion, seeking to find what was good in each person. His gentle humour put everyone at their ease in his company."
The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, said that at this sad time he wanted to remember the cardinal's "sterling commitment to Christian unity and his work for the relationship between all who follow Christ."
"Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor was a deeply spiritual priest, known for his warmth, good humour and humility," Archbishop Martin added. "He was always proud of his heritage and held great affection for the Church in this country."
Paying tribute to Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby said the news of his death "represents a loss to his innumerable friends, to the church and to the country."
"His humility, sense and holiness made him a church leader of immense impact...in Cormac people saw something of Christ."
Cardinal Cormac was installed as Archbishop of Westminster in March 2000 and later that year he was elected President of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. In February 2001, he was created a cardinal by Pope John Paul II. He was one of 125 cardinals who elected Pope Benedict XVI following the death of Pope John Paul II.
While the Cardinal did not vote at the Conclave which elected Pope Francis because he had turned 80 the summer before, he did play a part in the General Congregation meetings which took place the week before the Conclave in Rome.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy- O'Connor left Westminster in 2009. He was the first Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster; all his predecessors had died in office.
Speaking on BBC Radio 2's 'Pause for Thought' last November on the eve of Remembrance Day, the Cardinal focused on the theme of a 'good death.'
"In spite of all our weaknesses and failures, God loves us and so death must be of a piece with life. With the help of God I hope I will be able to face it, not with fear but with hope and confidence as being in the hands of God," he said.
Thinking of all those families and friends who had died, the cardinal reflected, "I know that all of them in different ways have tried to live a good life and have made sacrifices in order to help their families and others. So I think, quite simply, that the way to have a good death is to try to live a good life."
He was born on 24 August 1932 in Reading, Berkshire, one of six children. Three of his brothers became priests and another played rugby for Ireland. He was ordained a priest in Rome in October 1956 and first appointed to Corpus Christi Parish, Portsmouth. Ten years later he became private secretary and chaplain to the then Bishop of Portsmouth, Derek Worlock.
At the end of 1971, the Holy See appointed him Rector of the Venerable English College in Rome where he was responsible for the training of students for the priesthood. During that time, he hosted the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Coggan during his historic visit to to Pope Paul VI in 1977.
The cardinal confessed to BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs programme that it was during his time training for the priesthood at the English College, he perfected the art of making a good Martini cocktail.
In December of that year, Cormac Murphy-O'Connor was ordained Bishop of the diocese of Arundel and Brighton.
Within months of his appointment to the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor was appointed a member of four different Vatican offices.
In 2000 he invited Lord Nolan to chair an independent review on child protection in the Catholic Church in England and Wales. Their final review led to the establishment of a new independent office 'COPCA' to oversee the protection of children and vulnerable adults.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor was the first member of the Catholic hierarchy since 1680 to deliver a sermon to an English monarch, in January 2002. The event took place at Sandringham, at the invitation of the Queen, during the Anglican morning service.