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Guest editor: Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor
Every year the Today programme invites people in the public eye, from artists and musicians to business men and royalty, to guest edit the programme in the week after Christmas.

The second programme in the series was edited by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

He wanted to use the opportunity to explore some of what he describes as the "hinterland" of his life - his love of music and rugby - as well as drawing attention to some of the issues he feels are important, including morality in politics and care in hospital.

The Cardinal wanted find out how morality fitted into the Prime Minister Gordon Brown's view of the world. He went to Number 10 to find out from the PM himself and discussed the effect a religious upbringing had on Gordon Brown's moral views and his "unequivocal" opposition to assisted suicide.

He asked the programme to look into whether levels of compassion in health care have deteriorated. Health correspondent Jane Dreaper investigated the issue, finding appalling stories of patient neglect and hearing from the influential King's Fund think tank that sicker patients and shorter hospital stays are having an effect on the level of compassion.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor took Today presenter Edward Stourton to Rome to show him the sights and sounds of his religious education, describing his duties as film censor and table tennis monitor and his summers singing Gilbert and Sullivan at his college's lake-side retreat.

While in Rome, the Cardinal used a private visit to the Sistine chapel to shed a little light on the process of electing a pope, himself having taken part in the conclave that chose Pope Benedict XVI in April 2005. While bound by a solemn oath not to reveal the secrets of the vote, he does let on that he would not have wanted the "tremendous burden" of being elected Pope himself.

As a more than proficient pianist, the Cardinal has long been interested in how and why some pieces of music touch people in a way that others do not. He met with concert pianist Stephen Hough behind a piano to discuss moving musical works and play a short duet.

And while his rugby playing days are behind him, the Cardinal was interested to find out from Daily Telegraph journalist Brendan Gallagher whether rugby is still the gentleman's game he and his brothers used to play.

The Cardinal is preparing to leave his job as Archbishop of Westminster, and is facing the prospect of having to cook for himself for the first time. To pick up some useful tips on Italian cooking, he visited Giorgio Locatelli's restaurant with religious affairs correspondent Robert Piggott.

He was also interested in the effect elected mayors have on the welfare of a town. Europe correspondent Jonny Dymond was sent to Le Mans and Slough, to find out whether the French system of elected mayors would work in the UK.


Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor is the Archbishop of Westminster and the most senior Catholic in England and Wales.

He was born on 24 August 1932 in Reading to Irish immigrant parents and began his studies for the priesthood in 1950, receiving ordination in 1956.

In 1970 he became parish priest in Portswood, Southampton, was named Bishop of Arundel and Brighton in 1977, was installed as the tenth Archbishop of Westminster on 22 March 2000 and was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2001.

In 2002 he became the first cardinal to read prayers at a Royal funeral service since 1509 and the first to preach a sermon to a reigning British monarch since 1688. In 2005, he was one of the 125 cardinals who elected Pope Benedict XVI following the death of Pope John Paul II.

His work in the church has focused on youth work and the development of small communities.

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