Thursday, 29 March 2007

Archbishop Couve de Murville's Silver Jubilee of Episcopal Ordination

Fitting blogging in at the moment is quite a task. Anyway, I'm sitting down this evening to catch up with a few recent events. And the first is the Silver Jubilee of Ordination as Bishop of Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville. It was just before the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II's apostolic visit to Britain in 1982 that the successor to Archbishop George Patrick Dwyer was announced and ordained. Before being appointed Archbishop, Fr Couve, as he was known, had been University Chaplain in Sussex University, and the University of Cambridge. It was from there that he was called to become eighth bishop and seventh Archbishop of Birmingham.

One thing is certain: during Archbishop Maurice's episcopate, there were always plenty of stories connected with the Archbishop doing the rounds. It was an interesting time in the Archdiocese. Never one for holding back from saying what he was thinking, there were always gleeful - or exasperated depending on you point of view - stories being told about him and what he had said, no doubt some of them apocryphal. He had a great esteem for the history of the Catholic Midlands, and did all he could to restore and preserve the patrimony of the Church in this Diocese. He also sought to care for the spiritual and catechetical patrimony, often setting him against the other bishops. One bishop (who is now dead, but shall remain nameless) that Archbishop Maurice often found himself isolated at the Bishops' Conference, but he always stood by his decisions.

I have utmost admiration for Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville. He certainly made life interesting. He was the Archbishop who interviewed and accepted me for seminary, who sent me off to Valladolid, who ordained me first deacon, in Spain, and then Priest, in my home parish, and then sent me to do further studies in Salamanca. Yes, he had his problems in this Diocese, and sometimes quite public ones, but as a man, although he might seem insensitive or brusque at moments, I saw him as a deeply committed and caring man who looked after the Diocese in a unique but fatherly manner. At least life was always interesting!

It was only right to celebrate with a solemn Mass in St Chad's Cathedral the 25th Anniversary of Archbishop Couve de Murville's Ordination as Bishop. Archbishop Vincent Nichols preached the homily (in the photos you can see that he presided from the cathedra in choir dress, while Archbishop Maurice celebrated the Mass, concelebrated by the Auxiliary Bishops) in which he spoke of the beauty of the Feast Day (the Annunciation) and the dignity of the office of bishop. It was a shame that Archbishop Maurice - who seemed a little uncertain and in need of orientation at times - did not speak at the Mass. But a Mass offered is the final word - the Incarnate Word of God made present.

For Archbishop Maurice's pedigree see here.


Anonymous said...

Archbishop Dwyer confirmed me.

when i was Head of RE i was invited to Archbishop Couve De..'s house in Rednal. i believe that's gone now?

i don't remember a great deal oh i just rember he came for lunch at Bishop Challoner..i always remember his lovely grace before meals. i remember also all the other staff senior, particularly, made themselves scarce & left him with me!

Augustinus said...

Father, thank you for posting this. Many of us have a number of fond memories of Archbishop Couve de Murville. He is a great character, always in step with the Church - even when that put him put of step with his confreres - no great loss there.

Yes, he had his problems, some of them public - but he is a human being as well as an archbishop. Whatever he did, I always felt he did for the good of the Church.

I would like to have gone to his celebration Mass. I'm sure I'm wrong to have missed it for the reason I did, but the standard of music particularly at some diocesan celebrations at St Chad's leave me cold.

Rather than letting the wonderful choir take charge of the singing, there seems to be a preference for music groups with second-rate modern ditties and a preponderence of mix-and-match styles which doesn't seem to sit well with the setting. The Arch is worthy of better. Hopefully he got it and I will have been proved wrong to have missed it.

Sorry to read he didn't speak - in his heyday he would have been well worth listening to.

Ad multos annos, Archbishop.

Fr Julian Green said...

There was no CJM! The music was congregational singing with the Oscott schola providing some bits of polyphony.

Augustinus said...

Deo Gratias! I knew I should have gone. Ah well, pride and the fall etc..

Ttony said...

Even as Archbishop, C de M always married former Chaplaincy students. I was Best Man at one, and enjoyed a Stag Night in which the Groom and I took the Archbishop (in purple) to a rural pub in South Gloucestershire where the initial incomprehension between a Prince of the Church and some agricultural labourers intent on their cider turned into a real celebration. God bless him!


Let us pray for him now in this time of difficulty for him, I am very sad to hear of his illness but know somewhere in this he will be making an outrageously fabulous comment!

Chris McG