Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor retires. On Friday, Pope Benedict XVI appointed. the Archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols, to succeed him in the chair of Archbishop of Westminster. The search had proved difficult, with the English press repeatedly speculating about possible candidates.
Murphy-O'Connor had already announced his retirement last year upon reaching the ecclesiastical age limit shortly before his 75th birthday. Birthday offered. But the pope had asked him to remain in office "until further notice". The Archbishop of Westminster is also always Primate of the Catholics in England and Wales. Murphy-O'Connor had been at the helm of the archdiocese since 2000. At the time of his appointment, he had been considered an outsider – and a transitional candidate because of his age. Even then, Nichols was also in the running for the post. After the death of Cardinal Basil Hume, the then auxiliary bishop was appointed diocesan administrator and led the affairs of the archdiocese for nearly a year. Despite this, Murphy-O'Connor was chosen and Nichols became Archbishop of Birmingham. Born in Reading, southwest England, in 1932, one of five children of an Irish immigrant family, Murphy-O'Connor studied philosophy and theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, prepared for the priesthood at the English College in Rome and was ordained in 1956. He first worked as a chaplain in England. Beginning in 1971, Murphy-O'Connor served as rector of the English College in Rome, where he was responsible for the formation of candidates for the priesthood. In 1977 he was consecrated bishop of the diocese of Arundel and Brighton. Controversial despite stellar career Murphy-O'Connor became known worldwide for his work as vice president of the International Anglican-Catholic Dialogue Commission(ARCIC). After his installation as archbishop of Westminster in March 2000, he was also traditionally elected president of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales and received the cardinalate in 2002. Murphy-O'Connor also served as vice president of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE) from 2001 to 2006. Despite his stellar career, his inauguration as Catholic primate was not without controversy in England and Wales. In the wake of abuse scandals in the Catholic Church at the turn of the millennium, Murphy-O'Connor was accused of protecting a pedophile priest in his former diocese in the 1980s. The cardinal always denied the accusations, but in 2003 admitted that he had apparently "forgotten" about the abuse case on record and had not forwarded it properly. Murphy-O'Connor repeatedly apologized for failures to address abuse cases and advocated for their resolution. At the beginning of his tenure, Murphy-O'Connor was seen as a reformer who even questioned celibacy and kept the door open to converts to the Anglican Church. In January 2002, he delivered a sermon for Queen Elizabeth II. – The first by a Catholic clergyman for an English monarch since 1680. Together with the head of the Anglican Church of England, Rowan Williams of Canterbury, he spoke out against the Iraq war in 2003. Committed to the fight against poverty Murphy-O'Connor is particularly committed to fighting poverty and is a strong advocate for the naturalization of illegal migrants. He repeatedly advocated their integration, but was always critical of a multicultural society. In moral and ethical questions, the cardinal always showed himself determined and defended the values of the Catholic Church against a liberalization of society. He is a vocal opponent of contraception and abortion and opposes adoption rights for same-sex couples. The cardinal also recently protested clearly against an amendment to the British Embryo Act, which would allow the cloning of human-animal chimeras for research purposes. In the wake of the legislation, Murphy-O'Connor, together with the Archbishop of Cardiff, Peter Smith, repeatedly pleaded for the creation of a national ethics commission.