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George Basil Hume, O.S.B., O.M. (1923–1999) was an English Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Westminster from 1976 and President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales from 1979 until his death. Hume was elevated to the cardinalate in 1976.

During his lifetime Hume received wide respect from the general public which went beyond the Catholic community. Following his death, a statue of him was erected in his home town of Newcastle upon Tynemarker outside St Mary's Cathedral (opposite the Central railway Station), unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II.

Early life and ministry

George Haliburton Hume was born in Newcastle upon Tynemarker to Sir William Errington Hume and Marie Elizabeth (née Tisseyre) Hume. His father was a Protestant cardiac physician from Scotland, and his mother the French Catholic daughter of an army officer. He had three sisters and one brother.

Hume contemplated joining the Dominicans but entered the novitiate of the Benedictine monastery at Ampleforth Abbeymarker in North Yorkshire at the age of 18. He was a pupil at the well-respected independent school Ampleforth Collegemarker between the ages of 13 and 18. He took the name Basil when he received the habit, and he was solemnly professed in 1945.

After studying at Ampleforth, Hume went on to study at St Benet's Hall, Oxfordmarker, a Benedictine institution, where he graduated with a degree in theology.Thereafter, he earned a licentiate in sacred theology from the University of Fribourgmarker in Switzerland.

He was ordained a priest on 23 July 1950. Returning to Ampleforth to teach modern languages, he became its abbot in 1963.


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 an obvious choice for Archbishop as he had no experience 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".Time Magazine. Jogger's Progress 1 March 1976

Hume received his episcopal consecration on the following 25 March (the feast of the Annunciation) from Archbishop Bruno Heim, with Bishops Basil Butler, OSB, and John McClean serving as co-consecrators, in Westminster Cathedralmarker.

He was created Cardinal Priest of S.marker Silvestro in Capitemarker by Paul VI in the consistory of 24 May 1976, and 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.

Cardinal 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 installation ceremony of Archbishop Robert Runcie of Canterbury in 1980. It was also during his tenure in Westminster that Pope John Paul II made a groundbreaking visit to England.

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.

He was diagnosed with inoperable abdominal cancer in April 1999. On 2 June of that same year, Queen Elizabeth awarded him the Order of Merit. He died just over two weeks later in Westminstermarker, London, at age 76. 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".


Hume was seen as moderate in his theological positions, trying to please both liberals and conservatives. While condemning homosexual acts, for instance, he accepted the validity of love between gay people. Moreover, he was opposed to women priests but described most detractors of Humanae Vitae as "good, conscientious and faithful".


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

Statue of Cardinal Basil Hume in Newcastle
  • A statue of Cardinal Hume was erected in his home town of Newcastle and unveiled by the Queen in 2002.
  • 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.
  • The Cardinal Hume Rose is named after him.
  • The Cardinal Hume Catholic School has been recently opened in Wrekenton, part of Gatesheadmarker, Tyne and Wear. It is replacing the aging St Edmund Campion School, and accommodates over a thousand students, in state of the art surroundings.
  • The Hume Theatre of St Mary's Catholic School in Bishop's Stortford is named after him, and he opened it a few years before he died.


  • He was a lifelong fan of jogging, squash and Newcastle United F.C. There exists a story whereby Cardinal Hume met 'Wor' Jackie Milburn, the Newcastle United legend. Both unassuming men, they were in awe of each other. After a conversation, the talk moved on and one suggested an autograph would be a good idea. The other agreed. Both men stood back and expected to be the recipient of the autograph, without realising the other man wanted their autograph in return.
  • Hume was the last Archbishop of Westminster to employ a Gentiluomo. The Gentiluomo was a form of ceremonial bodyguard who accompanied the Archbishop at formal occasions. As the role had become archaic, no new Gentiluomo was appointed after the death of Hume's Gentiluomo, Anthony Bartlett, OBE, in 2001.

See also

  • Anthony Howard, author of "Basil Hume, the monk cardinal", Headline, 2005 (ISBN 0-7553-1247-3).


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