Assassinated Catholic lawmaker Sir David Amess is remembered as “a true bridge builder” during a Requiem Mass on Tuesday.
Preaching at mass at Westminster Cathedral in London on November 23, Canon Pat Browne said that even in death, the veteran MP has brought people on opposite sides together.
“David was a real bridge builder. Seeing the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition stand side by side in silence and prayer, pay homage to Southend after his death, and lead them across the hall in unity and camaraderie, was something the Parliament doesn’t see it very often, ”said Browne, Catholic priest on parliamentary service since 2009.
“David’s death was the catalyst for everyone in Parliament to realize their unity as a community working differently, but together, for the good of the nation in our world.”
Sir David, 69, was stabbed to death during a weekly meeting with voters at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex on October 15.
The live-broadcast Requiem Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster. Mourners included UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, members of the Cabinet, former prime ministers John Major, David Cameron and Theresa May, and opposition leader Keir Starmer.
In a message read by Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain, Pope Francis offered his “sincere condolences and the assurance of his spiritual closeness to the Amess family”.
“His Holiness remembers with gratitude Sir David’s years of dedicated public service, guided by his strong Catholic faith and evidenced by his deep concern for the poor and underprivileged, his commitment to defending God’s gift of life, and his efforts to foster understanding and cooperation with the Holy See in its universal mission, ”said the message, sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin to Bishop Alan Williams of Brentwood, the Diocese of origin of Sir David.
“In praising the soul of Sir David to the loving mercy of Jesus Christ our Savior, the Holy Father prays that all who honor his memory will be confirmed in the resolve to reject the ways of violence, to fight against evil. for good and to help build a society of ever greater justice, fraternity and solidarity.
Nichols, the chairman of the English and Welsh bishops’ conference, said the Pope offered “words of deep condolence and support and prayers for Sir David’s family.”
The cardinal thanked God “for the example he set and the goodness he performed”, praying “for the mercy of God and his judgment and for the welcome which will be reserved for Sir David in his heavenly abode “.
Sir David, a champion of pro-life causes, was a Tory MP from 1983 until his death, representing Southend West from 1997.
He created a multi-party parliamentary group for relations with the Holy See in 2006 and was instrumental in organizing Benedict XVI’s historic visit to Parliament in September 2010.
The first Requiem Mass reading, Wisdom 3: 1-9, was read by former US Congressman Robert Pittenger.
Deacon Damien Wade of the Diocese of Brentwood read the Gospel, John 15: 12-17, in which Jesus said, “No one has more love than this, to lay down his life for his friends.
In his homily, Canon Pat Browne described the impact of Sir David’s death on his staff.
“Ever since I was appointed to Parliament 12 years ago, David’s office was a place where I was always welcome to have a cup of tea and chat. So we’re going back a long way, ”said Browne, who officiated at Sir David’s wedding at Westminster Cathedral in 1983 and then baptized his five children.
“Unfortunately, my last visit to his office was on that horrible Friday afternoon. I had just finished a wedding in St. Mary Undercroft’s Chapel in Parliament and heard the tragic news. I immediately went to see his staff. They were devastated.
“There were a lot of tears and it hit me hard: these people weren’t just his staff; they were his friends. They loved him. They were his team, his collaborators in the work for the constituents of Southend West. “
“Friendship was David’s great gift to others. Not just to those who worked alongside him and agreed with him, but to everyone in the House [of Commons, the lower house of the U.K. Parliament], including those who did not share his political or religious views.
Browne recalled the lawmaker’s gift for making others laugh, recounting what he called the “boiled candy episode,” which occurred when the Pope adopted the lawmaker in St. Peter’s Square in Rome.
“Seeking to shoot [his rosary beads] for the Pope to bless, he instead presented a boiled candy in his package, which Pope Benedict innocently blessed and continued, ”the priest said.
“His dress as a knight and on horseback through the streets of Southend when he became Sir David: these things made others laugh with him. His genuine charm, wit, and warmth broke through many barriers as he sought in others those things they could agree on and work on together.
He continued, “David was also serious. For him, life was a gift to be accepted, cherished, nurtured and lived fully. He took his life with both hands and threw himself into it. Indeed, he died while doing so, in the service of others. As today’s Gospel tells us: “A man cannot have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends” … his constituents, his country. David did.
“His Catholic faith inspired his passionate commitment to the very right to life, to human dignity and to the common good. But it was also rooted in his absolute belief that an MP’s first priority was his constituents – it was the death of a hypothermic voter that led to his private energy poverty bill.
The man accused of the murder of Sir David – Ali Harbi Ali, 25, of Kentish Town, north London – is due to stand trial from March 7, 2022. The British citizen of Somali descent is charged with murder and preparation of terrorist acts.
The death of the legislator has sparked a debate over the access of priests to crime scenes to administer the last rites.
Bro. Jeff Woolnough, the pastor of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Eastwood, in Leigh-on-Sea, said he rushed to Belfairs Methodist Church when he learned that Messiah had been attacked.
A policeman outside the church reportedly relayed his request to enter the building, but the priest was not allowed to enter. Instead, he prayed the rosary outside the police cordon.
After Sir David’s death, Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, in the west of England, called for greater recognition of the last rites as “emergency service”.
British lawmakers have formally proposed an ‘Amess Amendment’ to a bill before Parliament.
The idea emerged a few days after Sir David’s death. Paying tribute to his colleague murdered in the House of Commons on October 18, Labor MP Mike Kane suggested lawmakers pass an amendment ensuring priests have access to those in need of the last rites.
Cardinal Nichols and the London Police Chief agreed earlier this month to create a joint group to examine the access of Catholic priests to crime scenes.
The day before Requiem Mass, a private service attended by family members was held at St. Mary’s Church, Prittlewell, Essex. It was headed by the Vicar of the Anglican Church, the Reverend Paul Mackay, and Mgr. Kevin Hale, pastor of Notre-Dame de Lourdes and Saint-Joseph, Leigh-on-Sea.
Former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe read a statement from the Amess family during the service.
“We are extremely proud of him, our hearts are broken, however, there was still so much David wanted to do so this is not the end of MP Sir David Amess, this is the next chapter,” a he declared.
“’Strong and courageous’ is an apt way to describe David. He was a patriot and a man of peace, so we ask people to put aside their differences and show kindness and love to everyone as this is the only way to go. “
“We must put aside hatred and work to live together; regardless of race, religious or political beliefs, we must be tolerant and try to understand.
After the service, a horse-drawn carriage carried Sir David’s coffin through the streets of Southend-on-Sea, which was granted town status in honor of lawmakers, who had long campaigned for the coastal town to be recognized as a town .
Widdecombe, who converted to Catholicism in 1993, also delivered the eulogy at Westminster Cathedral.
Speaking shortly before Cardinal Nichols blessed the legislator’s coffin and said the prayer of praise, she recalled that Sir David was “a staunch pro-life and anti-abortion activist”.
She said: “In his last days in a Roman prison awaiting execution, Saint Paul wrote: ‘I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith, I have finished my course.’ David Amess fought many good fights, he certainly kept the faith and now, unfortunately for those who remain but gloriously for him in Heaven, David Amess has finished his journey.