Saturday, April 17, 1999 Published at 11:12 GMT 12:12 UK
Catholic leader fights cancer
Archbishop of Westminster Basil Hume: "Calm and at peace"
By BBC News Online's Alex Kirby
Catholic Church leader Cardinal Basil Hume is suffering from inoperable cancer.
But the 76-year-old Archbishop of Westminster, who is head of the church in England and Wales, plans to work on for as long as he can.
The letters read: "You may have heard that I have recently been in hospital for tests.
"The result: I have cancer, and it is not in its early stages.
"I have received two wonderful graces. First, I have been given time to prepare for a new future.
"Secondly, I find myself - uncharacteristically - calm and at peace."
He went on: "I intend to carry on working as much and as long as I can. I have no intention of being an invalid until I have to submit to the illness.
The Holy Year is the Catholic name for the year 2000.
It begins for the church on Christmas Eve, when Cardinal Hume plans to unseal a door in Westminster cathedral, which he ceremonially sealed last month.
The unsealing will symbolise Christ's renewed entry into all of human life.
He was appointed Archbishop of Westminster in March 1976, and two months later was created a cardinal by Pope Paul VI.
He is known for the simplicity of his life, and is held in great affection by many people both within and outside the Catholic Church.
The unexpected news of his illness will sadden them. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, commented: "I am so sorry to learn of the serious nature of Cardinal Hume's illness.
"His faithful acceptance of the situation and his ability to look forward with determination and with hope is typical of the man whom we know, love and respect.
"Cardinal Hume can depend on my support. He will be in my prayers and in the prayers of the whole nation in the months ahead."
But the clear message from Archbishop's House is that it is to be business as usual for as long as possible.
And Basil Hume, a Catholic traditionalist in many ways, will be the first to insist that there is nothing final about death.