Basil Hume

Basil Hume bigraphy, stories - Catholic cardinal

Basil Hume : biography

2 March 1923 – 17 June 1999

Basil Hume OSB, OM (2 March 1923 – 17 June 1999) was a monk of the English Benedictine monastery of Ampleforth Abbey and for 13 years its abbot until his appointment as Archbishop of Westminster in 1976. His elevation to a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church followed during the same year. 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.

During his lifetime Hume received wide respect from the general public which went beyond the Catholic community. 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.


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. He died just over two weeks later in Westminster, 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 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’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.

  • A statue of 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 opened in Wrekenton, part of Gateshead, Tyne and Wear. It replaces the ageing St Edmund Campion School and accommodates over 1000 students.
  • The Hume Theatre of St Mary’s Catholic School in Bishop’s Stortford is named after him. He opened it a few years before he died.
  • The Hume building of St. Mary’s Catholic High School, Menston, opened in 2001 is named after him.


Hume was accused in ‘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.", Yorkshire Post, 18 November 2005.