Basil Hume


Basil Hume : biography

2 March 1923 – 17 June 1999


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."Time Magazine. 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 Cathedral.


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).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.

Hume was seen as moderate in his theological positions, trying to please both liberals and conservatives.Archdiocese of Westminster. 11 January 2005 While condemning homosexual acts, for instance, he accepted the validity of love between gay people. Moreover, he was opposed to women priestsTime Asia. 28 June 1999 but described most detractors of Humanae Vitae as "good, conscientious and faithful".Time Magazine. 28 June 1999 Despite that comment, Hume supported Humanae Vitae and regretted that the British government would rely on using condoms to address AIDS., "The Tablet", 26 June 1999, accessed 5 November 2010.

Early life and ministry

He was born George Haliburton Hume born 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 studying at 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. There is a story that 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.