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Cardinal Hume funeral Friday, 25 June, 1999, 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK
Cardinal Hume: Monastic aristocrat
Ampleforth: the Cardinal's real home for almost six decades
By News Online's Alex Kirby

Being a monk may not be a very easy way of life, but it is certainly a simple one.

The monastic vow of poverty, chastity and obedience is intended to liberate the individual to concentrate on God.

Cardinal Hume funeral
Basil Hume lived and died a Benedictine monk, and he had the simplicity of someone who knew what he wanted - to find his God.

He wrote, in an essay on life everlasting: "I see this life as a period of training, a time of preparation, during which we learn the art of loving God and our neighbour."

"Death comes to be seen as the way which leads us to the vision of God."

For all his 23 years as archbishop of Westminster, his heart remained at Ampleforth in Yorkshire, the monastic community which was his real home.


He had a reputation for something which the world recognises even if it cannot define it - holiness.

Being holy, in the Christian tradition, is not exactly the same as being good, or religious.

Basil Hume was holy because he was single-minded in pursuit of the truth he held. One Methodist said: "He led us to God".

Cardinal, archbishop - and human being
The cardinal remained an emotional human being. "You cannot look into the eyes of a starving child and remain the same," he once said.

Yet the church he led faces worse problems than when he became archbishop in 1976.

Attendance at Sunday mass is estimated to have fallen from almost 1,400,000 in 1988 to under 1,100,000 last year.

Basil Hume was criticised by liberals for not helping to change the church's teaching on abortion, and on lesbian and gay relationships.

Upholding doctrine

But with a traditionalist pope in Rome, it would be beyond any archbishop - even if he wanted to - to do much more than apply the rules with humanity, and the Cardinal tried to do that.

Some clergy who have worked with him, while they recognise his national stature, criticise his work as a diocesan bishop.

The church's worship was Basil Hume's driving force
"He was an autocrat who often wouldn't take advice," one priest told News Online.

"He treated his clergy like the schoolmaster he used to be. He could be indiscreet. Nor did he ever forget his upper class origins.

"Like many other spiritual leaders, he did not like administration.

"But he was never malicious - the indiscretions were always from the heart, not the head."

The evening before the funeral of the Princess of Wales, Basil Hume preached at a requiem mass for her in Westminster cathedral.

He said: "Diana, you were flawed but loveable - and above all, loved by God."

Perhaps he might recognise something of himself in the tribute he paid her.

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