THE former Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, has died after a battle with cancer.
The 85-year-old, whose parents come from Cork, became leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales in March 2000 before retiring from his role in 2009.
Bishop of Cork and Ross Dr John Buckley said he was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor.
“While the Cardinal was born in England, he is regarded as a Corkman. He has several members of his family in Cork, including Archdeacon Kerry Murphy-O’Connor in Turner’s Cross,” said Bishop Buckley.
“He paid frequent visits to the city and addressed many gatherings in recent years.
“He contributed greatly to the life of the English Church. Among his notable achievements was receiving Tony Blair into the Catholic Church.
“He was a man of great prayer and joy and I pray that he will enjoy the fruits of his life’s work in serving the Lord.”
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the current Archbishop of Westminster, said Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor died “peacefully” surrounded by his family and friends.
A spokeswoman for the Catholic Church in England and Wales added that he died at 3.15pm yesterday.
Cardinal Nichols said his abiding memory of his predecessor was his “infectious laughter and his sense of fun”, as well as his love of music and the piano in particular.
He told the Press Association: “The entire Catholic community and many others will mourn the death of Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.
“He led the Catholic Church with verve and enthusiasm — he was a man who loved life and lived it to the full and he died peacefully and with real humility.”
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor was not without controversy. In 2015, he admitted that he was deeply ashamed of the way he handled sex abuse allegations concerning a Catholic Church priest in the 1980s.
He told the Hay Festival, in south Wales, how, as the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, he allowed priest Michael Hill to become the chaplain of Gatwick Airport despite Hill confessing to him that he had abused young boys.
Cardinal Nichols said: “He was a man of courage who was not afraid to learn from his mistakes and to take on that learning both in public and his private reflection.
“The issues he faced in the 1980s of the abuse of children were much less understood than they are now and the decision he made was made with the support of professional advice.
“He deeply regretted that decision and the fact he did not report that matter immediately.”
In Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin said he was very saddened to hear of the Cardinal’s death.
“At this sad time, I also want to remember his sterling commitment to Christian unity and his work for the relationship between all who follow Christ. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor was a deeply spiritual priest, known for his warmth, good humour and humility.”