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Cardinal Hume funeral Friday, 25 June, 1999, 17:18 GMT 18:18 UK
The Catholic way of death
cross
Death is only a stage on the way to a fuller life
By News Online's Alex Kirby

When the body of George Basil Hume, cardinal archbishop of Westminster, is laid to rest in his own cathedral, it will be with the full panoply of church and state.

Cardinal Hume funeral
Royalty is expected, and senior politicians, together with the leaders of many Christian churches and other faiths.

Yet the man they are there to mourn, telling his clergy two months ago that he had terminal cancer, wrote: "Above all, no fuss. The future is in God's hands".

Hume
Hume wanted no fuss
That Christian attitude of acceptance of death is scarcely comprehensible to unbelievers. It was summed up by the headmaster of a Catholic public school, who was asked by a prospective parent what it could offer its pupils.

"We do not prepare our boys for life", the head replied. "We prepare them for death."

When the cardinal told the present abbot of Ampleforth that he was dying, the response was: "Congratulations ! That's brilliant news. I wish I was coming with you."

In Basil Hume's writings, there is a reflection entitled Life Everlasting, which includes this passage on impending death:

"As we approach the last bit of the journey there are days when we fear that we face an unknown, unpredictable, uncertain future. That is a common experience.

Into the light

"But do not worry; because the time comes when we no longer carry heavy bags and all those possessions. We shall travel through the cold, grey light of a bleak English morning into God's spring and summer."

abbey
Echoes of Ampleforth at the cardinal's tomb
He was convinced that death was the only "way which leads us to the vision of God".

So for Catholics, the funeral is a solemn ritual, but not a farewell. When the cardinal's body is buried, as he had wished, in the cathedral's chapel of St Gregory and St Augustine, there will be a practical link with the Yorkshire he loved.

The chapel is also dedicated to the ancient bishops and saints of the north of England, for whom he had a special affection. In the vaults above his tomb are mosaics of Oswald, Bede and Cuthbert, the greatest of "the saints of the wild north".

And a mosaic of St Benedict, founder of the monastic order to which Basil Hume belonged, will look down on his tomb.

But, for Catholics, the cardinal will not be there. As he himself put it, seeing a friend for what he expected to be the last time: "Well, goodbye then. See you in Purgatory, I suppose".

See also:

25 Jun 99 | Cardinal Hume funeral
18 Jun 99 | UK
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