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Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor dies aged 85

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor (Mazur/

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the former Archbishop of Westminster, has died at the age of 85.

The cardinal, who was the first Archbishop of Westminster to retire from office, passed away on Friday, September 1.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor was born in Reading to a family who had emigrated from County Cork in Ireland. He was educated at Presentation College in Reading and Prior Park College in Bath before studying for the priesthood at the Venerable English College and the Pontifical Gregorian University.

He was ordained to the priesthood on October 28, 1956 and in 1966 became private secretary to Bishop Derek Worlock of Portsmouth, before being appointed rector of his alma mater, the Venerable English College, in 1971.

On November 17, 1977, he was named Bishop of Arundel and Brighton by Pope Paul VI, receiving his episcopal consecration that December.

He held the position for nearly 23 years before being appointed Archbishop of Westminster in February 2000. He was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II the following year.

In 2009, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor became the first Archbishop of Westminster to retire from office, but his retirement was far from quiet. Pope Benedict XVI soon appointed him to the Congregation for Bishops, where he served for the next three years, and in 2010 he was named Apostolic Visitor to the Diocese of Armagh, leading a wide-ranging investigation into clerical sex abuse in Ireland.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor became known for his ecumenical work, serving from 1982 to 2000 as co-chairman of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission. He was awarded the Lambeth degree of Doctor of Divinity by the Archbishop of Canterbury for his ecumenical work, and at the Queen Mother’s funeral in 2002 he became the first cardinal to read prayers at a Royal funeral since 1509.

Details of the cardinal’s funeral have yet to be released.

Click here to read the Catholic Herald’s 2012 interview with Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor