Funeral Mass for Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville


The Funeral Mass for Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville was held in the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, in central Birmingham, on the morning of Wednesday 21 November.

The Most Reverend Maurice Noel Leon Couve de Murville, Archbishop Emeritus of Birmingham, died on Saturday 3 November, aged 78. He was the seventh Archbishop of Birmingham, having served from March 1982 until June 1999, when he resigned on the grounds of ill-health.

There was an almost complete turnout of his brother bishops, active and retired, giving witness to the tremendous affection in which he was held.
Priest and deacons from the Archdiocese and wider afield filled both side aisles of the Pugin Cathedral which Archbishop Maurice had done so much to
brighten and enhance.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols welcomed the close family and friends of the late Archbishop Maurice, some of whom had travelled from France and Mauritius. He also greeted representatives from the many theatres in which Archbishop Maurice had worked, together with civic and church leaders. These included the former Bishop of Birmingham, Mark Santer, who worked with the then Bishop Murphy-O'Connor of Arundel & Brighton as Co-Chairman of ARCIC.

Cormac, now Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, with the Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain, Archbishop Faustino Sainz Muñoz, were on the sanctuary and the Cardinal led the Final Commendation.

In his homily Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel & Brighton, a former Administrator of St Chad's Cathedral, said: "I hope that the memories that we carry away from this farewell will be of affection, admiration and respect for all that Maurice achieved."

He reminded the congregation that the heart of the celebration was not the memory of the former Archbishop but the memory entrusted to him to be kept alive. "Maurice's own proclamation of this truth was 'filled with awe and great joy'."

Bishop Conry continued: "The late Archbishop knew that it was his task to preach the faith, and he did it with enthusiasm and energy. This cathedral, restored after its 'modernisation' in the 1960's, is testimony to that energy.

"Today, when we are at risk of losing our confidence in the face, not just of indifference and apathy, but now a genuine suspicion of and hostility towards religion, we are called on not only to hold our nerve, but to go out to those who have strayed, to those in tears and despair and bring them back."

Bishop Conry concluded: "Archbishop Maurice undoubtedly longed for the appearing of his Lord. Let us keep this memory of him alive."

Popular hymns, sung with gusto by the whole congregation, included Cardinal Newman's "Praise to the Holiest in the Height" and, at Communion, "Soul of My Saviour".

When the coffin was lifted from the imposing catafalque and borne outside St Chad's Cathedral, all the bishops, priests and deacons formed an honour guard for Archbishop Maurice's mortal remains as they were placed in the hearse.

Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville was then buried in the cemetery at St Mary's College, Oscott, the Diocesan Seminary, dear to his heart, situated on the outskirts of Birmingham.


The reception of the body of Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville into St Chad's Cathedral, by Archbishop Vincent Nichols, took place at 4.00pm on Monday 19 November.

The Canons of St Chad's Cathedral, in full choir dress, headed the procession that included Bishop Philip Pargeter, an auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, Bishop Terence Brain of Salford, a former auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, and Bishop George Stack, an auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of Westminster.

Priests and parishioners from parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Birmingham were present in the Cathedral and took part in a poignant Evening Prayer for the Dead.

The homily was given by Bishop Leo McCartie, Bishop Emeritus of Northampton and himself a former auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham.

Archbishop-elect, Fr Maurice Couve de Murville, had been introduced to the media outside St Chad's Cathedral by Bishop Leo McCartie and Bishop Joseph Cleary following the surprise announcement from the Holy See on 22 January
1982 that he was to succeed Archbishop George Patrick Dwyer as Archbishop of Birmingham.


Archbishop Maurice was assiduous in his visits to the secondary schools of the diocese and his successor, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, celebrated a special Mass attended for representatives of these schools, at 12.15pm on Tuesday 20 November.

Headteachers, members of staff and pupils from schools throughout the Archdiocese of Birmingham, packed the Cathedral. The altar servers, the readers, and those in the offertory procession were all drawn from the ranks of the school pupils.

The homily was given by Fr Giles Goward, Parish Priest of Caversham, near Reading, a former Anglican, who had served as Secretary to Archbishop Maurice from 1996 until he retired as Archbishop of Birmingham in 1999.

He recalled: "Archbishop Maurice wanted RE to be taught in schools just as rigorously as any other academic subject so that pupils and students had the tools that they needed to make sense of the experience of religions. That is why he took such an interest in the RE Syllabus that was used."

Fr Goward concluded: "The schools you attend owe a lot to him and to his vision of placing education at the centre of what he did as Archbishop. So, even if you don't remember him, please remember to say a prayer for him."


Bishop Philip Pargeter, the senior auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, was the principal concelebrant and preacher at the Vigil Mass for the repose of the soul of Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville, held at St Chad's Cathedral, on the evening of Tuesday 20 November.

Among the concelebrants were priests from throughout the diocese, Bishop Kevin Dunn of Hexham & Newcastle, a former Episcopal Vicar in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, Bishop Malcolm McMahan OP, of Nottingham and Bishop William Kenney CP, an Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham.

During his homily Bishop Philip Pargeter said: "Memory is a precious faculty that is able to link people to events. For myself I remember Archbishop Maurice when I was Rector at Cotton College, later Administrator of St Chad's Cathedral and then for nine years his auxiliary bishop. He gave me wise counsel."

Bishop Pargeter then recalled three particular aspects of Archbishop Maurice's character: "His steadfast faith and devotion to prayer which accompanied it; his strong friendship and loyalty towards the many priests and people who helped him in his day to day work; his readiness to accept new forms of ministry combined with his enthusiastic and warm welcome to former Anglicans."

Bishop Pargeter concluded: "Archbishop Maurice lived a full life after his retirement. The Archdiocese of Birmingham owes him much."

CJM Music, Mike Stanley & Joanne Boyce, led the music, and Archbishop Vincent Nichols gave the final blessin