Basil Hume

His Eminence
Basil Hume
Cardinal, Archbishop of Westminster

Statue of Hume in Newcastle upon Tyne
Archdiocese Westminster
Province Westminster
Appointed 9 February 1976
Installed 25 March 1976
Term ended 17 June 1999
Predecessor John Carmel Heenan
Successor Cormac Murphy-O'Connor
Other posts Cardinal-Priest of San Silvestro in Capite
Ordination 23 July 1950
Consecration 26 March 1976
by Bruno Heim
Created Cardinal 24 May 1976
Rank Cardinal-Priest
Personal details
Birth name George Haliburton Hume
Born (1923-03-02)2 March 1923
Newcastle upon Tyne, England, United Kingdom
Died 17 June 1999(1999-06-17) (aged 76)
London, England, United Kingdom
Buried Chapel of St Gregory and St Augustine, Westminster Cathedral, London, England, United Kingdom
Nationality British
Denomination Roman Catholic
Parents Sir William Errington Hume and Maria Elizabeth Hume (née Tisserye)
Previous post Abbot of Saint Lawrence's Abbey, Ampleforth (1963–1976)
Coat of arms {{{coat_of_arms_alt}}}
Memorial plaque at Hume's birthplace, 4 Ellison Place, Newcastle upon Tyne

Basil Hume OSB OM (2 March 1923 – 17 June 1999) was an English Roman 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 the Central railway station), unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II.[4]

Early life and ministry

He was born George Haliburton Hume at 4, Ellison Place in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1923 to Sir William Errington Hume and Marie Elizabeth (née Tisseyre) Hume (d. 1978). 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.

Hume was a pupil at the independent school Ampleforth College between the ages of 13 and 18. After finishing his studies there, he considered joining the Dominicans but 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 License 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] There is a story that Hume met "Wor" Jackie Milburn, the Newcastle United legend.[6] 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.


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 an obvious choice for the post of archbishop as he had lacked 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, with bishops Basil Butler OSB and John McClean serving as co-consecrators, in Westminster Cathedral.


Styles of
Basil Hume, OSB, OM
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal

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.

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 Robert Runcie as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1980. It was also during his tenure in Westminster that Pope John Paul II made an 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.

Hume was diagnosed with inoperable abdominal cancer in April 1999. On 2 June of that year, Queen Elizabeth awarded him the Order of Merit.[7] He died just over two weeks later in Westminster, London, at age 76.[8] 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".[9]

Hume belongs to the very short list of Benedictine cardinals in the history of the Catholic Church. Since his death no other member of the Order of Saint Benedict has been elevated to cardinal.

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.


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).[10]

Hume was seen as moderate in his theological positions, trying to please both liberals and conservatives.[11] While condemning homosexual acts, for instance, he accepted the validity of love between gay people.[12] Moreover, he was opposed to women priests[13] but described most detractors of Humanae vitae as "good, conscientious and faithful".[14] Despite that comment, Hume supported Humanae vitae and regretted that the British government would rely on using condoms to address AIDS.[15]


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, formerly a prep school for 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."[16]

In 1984, Cardinal 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.[17]


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.


He also wrote To Be a Pilgrim, Searching for God, The Mystery of Love and Footprints of the Northern Saints.[21]

Orders, medals and decorations

National orders

Foreign orders


See also


  1. Miranda, Salvador. "George Basil Hume". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  3. Bergonzi, Bernard (15 January 2008). "English Catholics: a singular history & an uncertain future". Commonweal.
  4. 1 2 Urwin, Ray. "The statue of Cardinal George 'Basil' Hume outside St. Mary's Cathedral.". Retrieved 21 May 2009.
  5. 1 2 Time Magazine. Jogger's Progress 1 March 1976
  6. Clive White; Nick Harris (29 August 1998). "Football: The Sweeper". London: Independent. Retrieved 21 May 2009.
  7. "Queen honours dying Hume". BBC. 2 June 1999. Retrieved 21 May 2009.
  8. "Roman Catholic leader Hume dies". BBC. 17 June 1999. Retrieved 21 May 2009.
  9. "Pope's Tribute to Hume – full text". BBC. 25 June 1999. Retrieved 21 May 2009.
  10. 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.
  11. Archdiocese of Westminster. Cardinal George Basil Hume 11 January 2005
  12. "Basil Hume: From Monk to Cardinal". BBC. 25 June 1999. Retrieved 21 May 2009.
  13. Time Asia. Milestones 28 June 1999
  14. Time Magazine. Milestones 28 June 1999
  15. "Obituary of Cardinal Basil Hume", "The Tablet", 26 June 1999, accessed 5 November 2010.
  16. Ampleforth child abuse scandal hushed up by Basil Hume, Yorkshire Post, 18 November 2005.
  17. Walker, Tim (10 October 2012). "Sir Jimmy Savile causes anguish at the Athenaeum". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  18. Cardinal Hume Centre
  19. Cardinal Hume Catholic School
  20. "Bishop unveils school's new building and looks ahead to new sports court". Wharfedale Observer. 8 February 2001. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
  21. Basil in Blunderland; publisher's note on book jacket
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Herbert Byrne
Abbot of Ampleforth
Succeeded by
Ambrose Griffiths
Preceded by
John Carmel Heenan
Archbishop of Westminster
Succeeded by
Cormac Murphy-O'Connor
Preceded by
John Carmel Heenan
Cardinal Priest of S. Silvestro in Capite
Succeeded by
Desmond Connell
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