Basil Hume

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Basil Hume

Cardinal, Archbishop of Westminster
Primate of England and Wales
Cardinal George Basil Hume.jpg
ChurchRoman Catholic Church
Appointed9 February 1976
Installed25 March 1976
Term ended17 June 1999
PredecessorJohn Carmel Heenan
SuccessorCormac Murphy-O'Connor
Other post(s)Cardinal Priest of San Silvestro in Capite
Ordination23 July 1950
by Thomas Shine
Consecration26 March 1976
by Bruno Heim
Created cardinal24 May 1976
by Paul VI
RankCardinal priest
Personal details
George Haliburton Hume

(1923-03-02)2 March 1923
Newcastle upon Tyne, England, United Kingdom
Died17 June 1999(1999-06-17) (aged 76)
London, England, United Kingdom
BuriedChapel of St Gregory and St Augustine, Westminster Cathedral, London
DenominationRoman Catholic
  • Sir William Errington Hume
  • Maria Elizabeth Hume (née Tisserye)
Previous post(s)Abbot of Saint Lawrence's Abbey, Ampleforth (1963–1976)
Coat of armsBasil Hume's coat of arms
Memorial plaque at Hume's birthplace, 4 Ellison Place, Newcastle upon Tyne

George Basil Hume OSB OM (2 March 1923 – 17 June 1999) was an English Catholic bishop. He was a monk and priest of the English Benedictine monastery of Ampleforth Abbey and its abbot for 13 years until his appointment as Archbishop of Westminster in 1976. His elevation to cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church followed during the same year.[1] From 1979, Hume served also as president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. He held these appointments until his death from cancer in 1999. His final resting place is at Westminster Cathedral in the Chapel of St Gregory and St Augustine.[2]

During his lifetime, Hume received wide respect from the general public which went beyond the Catholic community.[3] Following his death, a statue of him in his monastic habit and wearing his abbatial cross was erected in his home town of Newcastle upon Tyne outside St Mary's Cathedral (opposite Newcastle station); it was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II.[4]

Early life and ministry[edit]

Hume was born George Haliburton Hume at 4 Ellison Place in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1923, to Sir William Errington Hume (1879–1960) and Marie Elizabeth (née Tisseyre) Hume (d. 1979). His father was a Protestant and a cardiac physician from Scotland, and his mother the French Catholic daughter of an army officer. He had three sisters and one brother.[citation needed]

Hume was a pupil at the independent school Ampleforth College between the ages of 13 and 18. After finishing his studies there, he entered the novitiate of the Benedictine monastery at Ampleforth Abbey in North Yorkshire in 1941, at the age of 18. He received the habit and the monastic name of Basil. He was solemnly professed in 1945.

After Ampleforth, Hume went on to study at St Benet's Hall, Oxford, a Benedictine institution, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in modern history. As it was impossible to study Catholic theology at Oxford at the time, he went on to the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, to complete his theological studies, earning a Licence in Sacred Theology.

Hume was ordained a priest on 23 July 1950. He then returned to Ampleforth to teach religious education, history, French and German. He served as head of the school's Department of Modern Languages before becoming the abbot of Ampleforth in 1963.

Hume was a lifelong fan of jogging, squash and Newcastle United F.C.[5] He once described getting an autograph from Jackie Milburn, the Newcastle United legend, as one of his "proudest achievements".[6]


On 9 February 1976, Hume was appointed Archbishop of Westminster, the highest ranking prelate in the Catholic Church in England and Wales, by Pope Paul VI. He was not considered the most obvious choice for the post of archbishop as he had lacked visible pastoral experience of running a diocese and, as the first monk to hold the post since the 1850 restoration of the English hierarchy, he was seen to be something of an outsider. Receiving news of the appointment during dinner, Hume later remarked, "I must confess I did not enjoy the rest of the meal."[5]

Hume received his episcopal consecration on the following 25 March (the feast of the Annunciation) from Archbishop Bruno Heim in Westminster Cathedral.[7] Bishops Basil Butler OSB and John McClean served as co-consecrators.


Styles of
Basil Hume
Coat of arms of Basil Hume.svg
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal

Hume was created Cardinal-Priest of San Silvestro in Capite by Paul VI in the consistory of 24 May 1976. He was one of the cardinal electors in the conclaves of August and October 1978. He was considered by many the most "papabile" Englishman since Cardinal Pole in 1548–1550.

Early in his time as archbishop, Hume found himself involved in the 1981 Irish hunger strike. He visited Derry in April 1981 and stated in a letter to Edward Daly, the Bishop of Derry, that "a hunger strike to death is a form of violence to one's self and violence leads to violence."[8] After the death of Bobby Sands in May 1981, debate over the moral aspects of the strike in The Tablet and whether or not it constituted suicide took place. Following the deaths of Patsy O'Hara and Raymond McCreesh later that month, Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich asked the British government to acquiesce to the hunger strikers' basic demands, seeking to focus more on the question of injustice leading to such an event, while the English Catholic Church preferred to focus on the question of suicide more heavily.[citation needed]

Even after becoming an archbishop, Hume never ceased to see himself as a Benedictine monk first and to interpret his duties in the light of those of a Benedictine abbot: "He must hate faults but love the brothers." (Rule of St Benedict, ch. 64:11).[9]

Hume was seen as moderate in his theological positions, trying to please both liberals and conservatives.[10] While condemning homosexual acts, for instance, he accepted the validity of love between gay people.[11] Moreover, he was opposed to women priests[12] but described most detractors of Humanae vitae as "good, conscientious and faithful".[13] Despite that comment, Hume supported Humanae vitae and regretted that the British government would rely on using condoms to address AIDS.[14]

Hume's time in office saw Catholicism become more accepted in British society than it had been for 400 years, culminating in the first visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Westminster Cathedral in 1995. He had previously read the Epistle at the enthronement of Robert Runcie as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1980. It was also during his tenure in Westminster that Pope John Paul II made a historic visit to England in 1982.

In 1998, Hume asked John Paul II for permission to retire, expressing the wish to return to Ampleforth and devote his last years to peace and solitude, fly fishing and following his beloved Newcastle United Football Club. The request was refused.

In April 1999, Hume revealed that he had terminal cancer.[15] On 2 June of that year, Queen Elizabeth awarded him the Order of Merit.[15] He died just over two weeks later, June 17, in Westminster, London, at age 76.[16] After a funeral service broadcast live on national television, he was buried in Westminster Cathedral. John Paul II, in his message of condolence to the Church in England and Wales, praised Hume as a "shepherd of great spiritual and moral character".[17]

Hume was the last Archbishop of Westminster to employ a gentiluomo. The gentiluomo were a form of ceremonial bodyguard who accompanied the archbishops on formal occasions. As the role had become archaic, no new gentiluomo were appointed after the death of Hume's gentiluomo, Anthony Bartlett OBE, in 2001.

Hume was accused of "hushing up" a suspected sexual abuse scandal at Ampleforth College by not calling in the police when he received a complaint from parents in 1975 about Father Piers Grant-Ferris, the son of a Tory peer at Gilling Castle Prep (now St Martin's Ampleforth). In 2005, Grant-Ferris admitted 20 incidents of child abuse. This was not an isolated incident and involved other monks and lay members. The Yorkshire Post reported in 2005; "Pupils at a leading Roman Catholic school suffered decades of abuse from at least six paedophiles following a decision by former Abbot Basil Hume not to call in police at the beginning of the scandal."[18]

In 1984, Hume nominated Jimmy Savile as a member of the Athenaeum, a gentlemen's club in London's Pall Mall. Following the posthumous revelation of Savile's repeated sexual abuse of minors, members of the club have criticised Hume's nomination of him for causing embarrassment to the club.[19]


Hume's tomb in Westminster Cathedral

Hume was regularly named Britain's most popular religious figure in opinion polls and this was attributed by some to the great humility and warmth with which he treated everyone he met, regardless of their religion or background.

  • A statue of Hume was erected in his home town of Newcastle and unveiled by the Queen in 2002.[4]
  • The Cardinal Hume Centre based in Westminster works to improve the lives of homeless young people, families and other vulnerable and socially excluded members of society.[20]
  • The Cardinal Hume Rose is named after him.
  • Cardinal Hume Catholic School has been opened in Beacon Lough, part of Gateshead, Tyne and Wear. It replaces the ageing St Edmund Campion School and accommodates over 1,000 students.[21]
  • The Hume Theatre of St Mary's Catholic School, Bishop's Stortford, is named after him. He opened it a few years before he died.
  • The Hume building of St. Mary's Menston school, opened in 2001, is named after him.[22]
  • The Basil Hume Scholarship is a set of scholarships awarded to new pupils at Ampleforth College.


  • 1997: Basil in Blunderland. London: Darton, Longman and Todd ISBN 0-232-52242-1

He also wrote To Be a Pilgrim, Searching for God, The Mystery of Love and Footprints of the Northern Saints.[23]

Orders, medals and decorations[edit]

National orders[edit]

Foreign orders[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Miranda, Salvador. "George Basil Hume". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Archived from the original on 27 February 2015. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  2. ^ "The Chapel of St Gregory and St Augustine - Westminster Cathedral". Archived from the original on 27 August 2011. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  3. ^ Bergonzi, Bernard (15 January 2008). "English Catholics: a singular history & an uncertain future". Commonweal. Archived from the original on 30 June 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2008.
  4. ^ a b Urwin, Ray. "The statue of Cardinal George 'Basil' Hume outside St. Mary's Cathedral". Archived from the original on 21 July 2009. Retrieved 21 May 2009.
  5. ^ a b "Jogger's Progress". Time. 1 March 1976.
  6. ^ Clive White; Nick Harris (29 August 1998). "Football: The Sweeper". London: Independent. Archived from the original on 9 November 2012. Retrieved 21 May 2009.
  7. ^ "Abbot Basil Installed as Westminster Archbishop". Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph. Colorado Springs, CO. Associated Press. 26 March 1976. Archived from the original on 26 October 2021. Retrieved 12 December 2016 – via open access
  8. ^ "Suicide or self-sacrifice: Catholics debate hunger strikes". Irish Times. 13 February 2017. Archived from the original on 20 April 2017. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  9. ^ This quotation, without attribution, was Hume's reply when, during a meeting of "Faith of Our Fathers", he was invited to support the proposed condemnation of a certain educational book and its author.
  10. ^ Diocese of Westminster. Cardinal George Basil Hume Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine 11 January 2005
  11. ^ "Basil Hume: From Monk to Cardinal". BBC. 25 June 1999. Archived from the original on 12 February 2008. Retrieved 21 May 2009.
  12. ^ Time Asia. Milestones 28 June 1999
  13. ^ "Milestones". Time. 28 June 1999.
  14. ^ "Obituary of Cardinal Basil Hume" Archived 29 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine, The Tablet, 26 June 1999, accessed 5 November 2010.
  15. ^ a b "Queen honours dying Hume". BBC. 2 June 1999. Archived from the original on 17 May 2014. Retrieved 21 May 2009.
  16. ^ "Roman Catholic leader Hume dies". BBC. 17 June 1999. Archived from the original on 19 June 2003. Retrieved 21 May 2009.
  17. ^ "Pope's Tribute to Hume – full text". BBC. 25 June 1999. Archived from the original on 4 August 2012. Retrieved 21 May 2009.
  18. ^ Ampleforth child abuse scandal hushed up by Basil Hume, Yorkshire Post, 18 November 2005.
  19. ^ Walker, Tim (10 October 2012). "Sir Jimmy Savile causes anguish at the Athenaeum". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  20. ^ "Cardinal Hume Centre website". Archived from the original on 23 October 2021. Retrieved 26 October 2021.
  21. ^ "Cardinal Hume Catholic School website". Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 8 September 2007.
  22. ^ "Bishop unveils school's new building and looks ahead to new sports court". Wharfedale Observer. 8 February 2001. Archived from the original on 12 November 2013. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
  23. ^ Basil in Blunderland; publisher's note on book jacket
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Herbert Byrne
Abbot of Ampleforth
Succeeded by
Preceded by Archbishop of Westminster
Succeeded by
Cardinal Priest of S. Silvestro in Capite
Succeeded by