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Cardinal prays at the tombs of two Victorian ‘founding fathers’

Cardinal Nichols in the crypt of Westminster Cathedral (Photo: Diocese of Westminster)

The Archbishop of Westminster prayed at the tombs of two Victorian-era cardinals this week.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols celebrated a Requiem Mass at Westminster Cathedral and afterwards descended into the crypt where the first two Archbishops of Westminster, Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman and Cardinal Henry Manning, were buried.

The Mass, which took place on the feast of St Columba, included a homily by Fr Nicholas Schofield in which he spoke of their work towards the common good.

He said: “Their concern was to build churches, open schools, establish religious houses and care for the marginalised.

“They wanted an educated and holy laity, served by well-trained and diligent priests. They were concerned with the breaking down of the barriers imposed by anti-Catholic prejudice, by now so much part of the English psyche, and they wanted the Church’s vision to extend beyond the Catholic community so that it could work for the common good.

“Though neither of them lived to see the building of this cathedral, it is appropriate that they lie directly below the sanctuary in the crypt, their tombs almost acting as foundation stones – because all that this cathedral and diocese are about today are a direct result of their bold vision and their courageous labours.”

The Mass was an opportunity to pay tribute to the first Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Wiseman, 150 years after his death.

It also honoured the 150th anniversary of the consecration of Cardinal Manning as the second Archbishop of Westminster.

Fr Nicholas went on to say that they both shared a “unity of purpose” in their mutual desire to serve the growing Catholic population.

Cardinal Wiseman, the first cardinal to serve in England since the time of Henry VIII, was appointed following Universalis Ecclesiae, the papal bull re-establishing the Catholic hierarchy.

The cardinal was regarded as outspoken at the time. The Times described his appointment in 1850 as “one of the grossest acts of folly and impertinence which the Court of Rome has ventured to commit since the Crown and the people of England threw off its yoke”.

An exhibition about the lives and work of the two cardinals is on display in St Patrick’s chapel in the Cathedral.

Robert Gray: ‘With half a dozen Mannings England would have run the risk of converting to Christianity’