Page last updated at 08:17 GMT, Wednesday, 15 April 2009 09:17 UK

Cardinal considers historic Lords move

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor
The cardinal has predicted a "battle" over euthanasia

The departing leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has revealed he is "in two minds" over whether to sit in the House of Lords.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, 76, who has already announced his retirement, says he may follow the example of his predecessor, Cardinal Basil Hume, and remain outside Parliament.

But he told the BBC World Service's Politics UK programme that he was also considering becoming the first Catholic bishop to sit in the Lords since 1553.

Furthermore, he said that Prime Minister Gordon Brown was thinking of inviting other faith representatives to take up places in the upper chamber.

Asked about the significance of sitting in the Lords, the cardinal said: "Yes I think it would be a change and I am in two minds.

"My predecessor was offered a place in the House of Lords and chose not to accept it and felt that he had a better voice, if you like, outside of Parliament by being a religious leader and there is a bit of me that would feel the same."

"I wouldn't like to think that those with Christian convictions were prevented from following those convictions
Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor

He added: "On the other hand, time moves on and there may be something to be said at this stage for someone like me - in retirement - to be part of the House of Lords to enable me to express my views, the views of my church, on social and ethical issues.

"I think that the prime minister wants to bring religious leaders into the House of Lords to make sure that their voice is heard.

"That obviously wouldn't just include myself as a Roman Catholic but also the Chief Rabbi and a prominent Muslim perhaps, because he thinks that these kind of voices in public life have a value."

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor also explained that he had been able to speak to the prime minister whenever he needed to during his tenure.

Gordon Brown
The cardinal advised the prime minister before he visited the Pope

He said: "If I want to speak to the prime minister I can speak to him, put it that way. "

The cardinal has also encouraged politicians to show their religious convictions.

He said: "I think you should be more positive. Everyone has to act out of their religious, moral and social convictions and I would hope that religious men or women would have to bring that into the political field.


"I wouldn't like to think that those with Christian convictions were prevented from following those convictions in their life in Parliament, though I do think that it can be quite difficult for some Catholics - in public life and in Parliament - to act out of their religious convictions which wouldn't be at one with their colleagues particularly, as I say, in some social and ethical issues."

The cardinal predicted "a battle before long" on the issue of euthanasia and claimed that both former prime minister Tony Blair and Mr Brown often felt forced into an attitude of "containing" religious groups.

But he added: "Deep down I think that both of them would want to cherish religious policies and see that they do contribute to the common good."

Mr Brown was praised by the cardinal over his commitment to reducing poverty across the world and because he wants faith communities "to have a real part" in British society.

Print Sponsor


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific