Thursday, 16 February 2012

Cardinal Wiseman, Anniversaries and Vintage Pathé Film

It seems to be the season for anniversaries and occasions of note.  A little over a month ago, we marked the first "birthday" of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, and within the last week we have seen the birth of the second Ordinariate being formed under the provisions of Anglicanorum Coetibus, the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter.  Earlier this week, the one hundredth post appeared in this blog.  Today, we mark the death in 1865 of Cardinal Wiseman, the first Archbishop of Westminster.

Cardinal Wiseman is someone that Ordinariate members should probably study more.  His visits from Rome to England in 1835 and 1836 caused great interest among the Oxford Movement, not least for Dr Pusey and Blessed John Henry Newman.  In 1836 he was one of the co-founders of the Dublin Review, which was in fact published in London, and which published articles of interest on Catholicism not only for Catholics with an interest in such academic study, but also with a view to being a window on the Catholic world for interested non-Catholics. 

In the time he spent as a Co-Adjutor Bishop for the Central Area of England, and as President of Oscott College, he was central to the provision of support (not least material support) being provided by the Catholic Church to incoming Anglican clergy.  He maintained a lifelong enthusiasm for what some call the "zeal of the convert" and what others might more kindly call the excitedness of new Catholics, even when some of his fellow "cradle Catholics" were less pronounced in their delight at the phenomenon.  Cardinal Wiseman was also an ally of the ex-Anglican who was to become his successor as Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Manning (whom we mentioned recently here).

Cardinal Wiseman would have been rather amused at the Pope parks his tanks on the lawn-type fuss that greeted the announcement of Anglicanorum Coetibus.  In the summer of 1850, he was summoned to Rome, and following Pope Pius IX's announcement in Universalis Ecclesiae (29 September that year) of the re-establishment of the English hierarchy, Wiseman was elevated to Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster and Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of the Southwark (the first Bishop of Southwark was the man who later became Cardinal Bourne, and the first Archbishop of Southwark was the famous Archbishop Amigo**).  Wiseman followed this by speaking very grandly of the "restoration of Catholic England to its orbit in the ecclesiastical firmament" in a letter entitled "Out of the Flaminian Gate".  You can find the whole text here, but here is a little taster to give you some idea.
The great work, then, is complete; what you have long desired and prayed for is granted. Your beloved country has received a place among the fair Churches, which, normally constituted, form the splendid aggregate of Catholic Communion; Catholic England has been restored to its orbit in the ecclesiastical firmament, from which its light had long vanished, and begins now anew its course of regularly adjusted action round the centre of unity, the source of jurisdiction, of light and vigour....

.....then truly is this day to us a day of joy and exaltation of spirit, the crowning day of long hopes, and the opening day of bright prospects. How must the saints of our country, whether Roman or British, Saxon or Norman, look down from their seats of bliss, with beaming glance, upon this new evidence of the faith and Church which led them to glory, sympathising with those who have faithfully adhered to them through centuries of ill repute for the truth’s sake, and now reap the fruit of their patience and long suffering. And all those blessed martyrs of these latter ages, who have fought the battles of the faith under such discouragement, who mourned, more than over their own fetters or their own pain, over the desolate ways of their own Sion, and the departure of England’s religious glory; oh! how must they bless God, who hath again visited his people,--how take part in our joy, as they see the lamp of the temple again enkindled and rebrightening, as they behold the silver links of that chain which has connected their country with the see of Peter in its vicarial government changed into burnished gold; not stronger nor more closely knit, but more beautifully wrought and more brightly arrayed.
The tone upset some, of course, but not as much as the mere fact of the re-establishment of the Catholic hierarchy upset some of the Protestant establishment.  There were a number of violent street protests (including smashing windows of Catholic churches), and a good few "No Popery" processions, but the new Cardinal did much to defuse the situation.  He issued a public letter in which he described the re-establishment of the hierarchy as merely a necessary practical measure for the Catholic faithful, and answered those who mocked him for "claiming jurisdiction" over Westminster by arguing that his real business was with the poor of the areas for which he was responsible.  The government of the day followed up by passing a law in 1851 forbidding, on pain of imprisonment and fines, any Catholic diocese in England or Ireland taking the same name as an Anglican diocese (the law seemed unnecessary, as the Catholic hierarchy had already respected this practice, and was repealed a mere 20 years later). 

The times are very different of course, but those who worried that the Ordinariate existed in order to "poach" happy Anglicans were as wrong as those who thought that Cardinal Wiseman planned to invade Westminster with the Papal Army in order to seize territory.

Cardinal Wiseman died on 16 February 1865, and a great procession followed his coffin from St Mary Moorfields all the way to Kensal Green.  His remains were at last transferred to the newly built Westminster Cathedral in 1907, where they still lie in the crypt, under a gothic tomb showing the Cardinal in full pontificalia.

Perhaps the Ordinariate should sing one of Cardinal Wiseman's own hymns more often, sung to a tune named after him. We mean, of course, Full in the Panting Heart of Rome.  His understanding towards those joining the Catholic Church from Anglicanism, and his knowledge of working in a time where the growth of Catholicism was treated with great suspicion, mark him out as one of those in the history of the Church in England who have shown the greatest of affinities with incoming ex-Anglicans.

Readers of this blog may have noticed a weakness on our part for vintage film.  That being the case, talk of anniversaries, of the re-establishment of the hierarchy and of Westminster Cathedral (a visit to which is described here) lead inevitably to some stunning Pathé footage of the 1950 celebrations marking the hundredth anniversary of the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy in England.

At the end of a week of celebrations, with several Masses on a grand scale, a garden party and various functions, on Sunday 1 October 1950, cardinals (including the famous Cardinal Spellman of New York, as well as cardinals from Toronto, Malines, Lyons, Berlin and Cologne), archbishops and bishops gathered from around the country and the world to mark this great occasion. 

In the afternoon, a great pageant of English Catholic history was held at Wembley Stadium, in front of a crowd of around 100,000, followed by a High Mass (shame on you who thought outdoor masses are a new and modern-rite-only phenomenon).  The crowd was at times very loud, as for example during the singing of Faith of our Fathers, Full in the Panting Heart of Rome and in the Latin of the Credo, but their total silence at the Elevation, during Communion and as they listened to a recorded address from Pope Pius XII struck those who reported on the event.  The mass was sung by the Archbishop of Birmingham, in the presence of the Papal Legate to the Centenary Celebrations, Cardinal Griffin, Archbishop of Westminster.

That same morning, there had been also the very grandest of Solemn High Masses at Westminster Cathedral, in the presence of six cardinals and seventy archbishops and bishops.  The film you can watch below will provide handy hints for future Ordinariate celebrations, if MCs ever have to find themselves managing the manoeuvring of multiple cappae magnae in procession, or placing the Gentlemen in Spanish Court Dress and the Cathedral Canons around the Throne, or wondering which direction an Archbishop as Apostolic Delegate (in the pictures it is the then Archbishop William Godrey, himself later to become Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster) sitting at the faldstool during a Solemn Pontifical High Mass should face during the genuflection at Et Incarnatus.  The preacher (according to this from the Catholic Herald) was Monsignor Ronald Knox (who was, as every Ordinariate member knows, a former Anglican clergyman).  I have stuck with the Catholic Herald's version of events, but various reports you can find on the internet provide conflicting accounts of who did what at the grand Sunday Mass: I suspect the confusion is because there was a whole series of barely less grand High Masses that week, celebrated by visiting cardinals as well as by Cardinal Griffin

The film, from the Pathé website, is very much worth watching, even if some of it appears to be in the wrong order. 

If clicking on the image above does not work, click here to watch the first film, describing the day's events.

If clicking on the image above does not work, click here to watch the second film, which contains some spectacular footage of of the Solemn High Mass at Westminster Cathedral.

If clicking on the image above doesn't start the film, then click here to watch footage from the Wembley ceremonies that afternoon.

**  Please note the welcome correction (to be found in the comments on this post) about the history of the Southwark bishops from Fr Sean Finnegan, Pastor in Valle, author of the excellent Valle Adurni blog, to which a permanent link is provided in the sidebar on the right hand side of this blog.


  1. Please forgive a pedantic point on your wonderful blog: Bourne was not the first bishop of Southwark; that was Thomas Grant. Bourne was actually the fifth bishop (1897-1903). And Amigo was an archbishop ad personam, not as holder of an archiepiscopal see. That dignity went for the first time in 1965 to his successor Cyril Cowderoy.
    God bless the work!

  2. Thank you for the correction, Father, and for your kind words. More than happy to be corrected by the famous Pastor in Valle!