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Vincent Nichols

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Vincent Nichols

His Eminence
Vincent Nichols
Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster
Nichols during Invocation 2010, 2–4 July, Oscott College
Nichols during Invocation 2010
Archdiocese Westminster
Province Westminster
Appointed 3 April 2009
Installed 21 May 2009
Predecessor Cormac Murphy-O'Connor
Other posts
Ordination 21 December 1969
Consecration 24 January 1992
by Basil Hume
Created Cardinal 22 February 2014
by Francis
Rank Cardinal-Priest
Personal details
Birth name Vincent Gerard Nichols
Born (1945-11-08) 8 November 1945
Crosby, Lancashire, England, UK
Nationality English
Denomination Roman Catholic
Residence Archbishop's House, Ambrosden Avenue, London
Parents Henry and Mary (née Russell) Nichols
Previous post
  • Fortis est ut Mors Dilectio
  • (Love Is Strong As Death)
Coat of arms }
Styles of
Vincent Nichols
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence, My Lord Cardinal or My Lord Archbishop or Cardinal
Informal style Cardinal

Vincent Gerard Nichols (born 8 November 1945) is an English Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, Archbishop of Westminster, Chancellor of St Mary's University, Twickenham and President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. He previously served as Archbishop of Birmingham from 2000 to 2009. On 22 February 2014, Pope Francis admitted Nichols to the Sacred College of Cardinals at a general consistory.[1]

Early life and ministry

Vincent Gerard Nichols was born in Crosby, Lancashire, to Henry Joseph and Mary (née Russell) Nichols, both teachers. As a child he wanted to be a lorry driver, but felt a calling to the priesthood as a teenager.[2]

He attended St Mary's College, Crosby,[3] from 1956 to 1963. From St. Mary's he entered the Venerable English College, Rome. He was ordained for the Archdiocese of Liverpool on 21 December 1969. He obtained the STL degree from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1970.

Upon his return to Britain, Nichols studied at the University of Manchester for a year and earned a MA degree in Theology in 1971, specialising in the theology of St. John Fisher. He then served as assistant pastor at St Mary's Church, Wigan,[4] as well as chaplain to St John Rigby College, Wigan,[5] and St. Peter's High School, Wigan.[6][7]

He received a MEd degree from Loyola University Chicago in 1974 and was assigned to St. Anne's Church in Edge Hill in 1975. Father Nichols spent a total of 14 years in the Liverpool archdiocese. In 1980, he was appointed director of the Upholland Northern Institute. He also sat on the archiepiscopal council.[7]

Nichols served as General Secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales from 1984 to 1993.[7] In addition to his role within the CBCEW, he was moderator of the Steering Committee of the Council of Churches for Britain and Ireland from 1989 to 1996.[7] He was chairman of the Catholic Education Service from 1998.[8]

Episcopal career

On 5 November 1991, Nichols was appointed Auxiliary bishop of Westminster and Titular bishop of Othona by Pope John Paul II. He received his episcopal consecration on 24 January 1992 from Cardinal Basil Hume, OSB, with Archbishop Derek Worlock and Bishop Alan Clark serving as co-consecrators, at Westminster Cathedral.

At the age of 46, he was the youngest Catholic bishop in the United Kingdom.[2] He selected as his episcopal motto: Fortis Ut Mors Dilectio, meaning, "Love Is Strong As Death" ( Canticles 8:6).[9]

As an auxiliary, Nichols served as vicar for North London. He was appointed to the finance advisory committee of the National Catholic Fund in 1994 and to the CBCEW's Committee for the Roman Colleges in 1995, and became Episcopal Liaison of the CBCEW for the National Conference of Diocesan Financial Secreatries in 1996.[7]

In 1998, he was made chairman of the CBCEW Department for Catholic Education and Formation,[10] as well as chairman of the Catholic Education Service.[7] Nichols represented the European bishops at the November 1998 Synod of Bishops from Oceania, and was a special secretary at the Synod of Bishops for Europe in September 1999. He presided over the burial of Cardinal Hume in 1999.

Archbishop of Birmingham

On 15 February 2000, Nichols was appointed the eighth Archbishop of Birmingham by Pope John Paul II, succeeding the French-born Maurice Couve de Murville. He was installed as archbishop on the following 29 March. He received the pallium from Pope John Paul II in Rome on 29 June 2000, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, at the same time as Cormac Murphy-O'Connor received his as Metropolitan of Westminster. Prior to his appointment to Birmingham, he had been considered a leading contender to replace the late Cardinal Hume as Archbishop of Westminster;[11] the position ultimately went to Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.

In 2001, Nichols became chairman of the management board of the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults. He is also a patron of the International Young Leaders Network[12] based at Blackfriars, Oxford. In 2008, he was named President of the Commission for Schools, Universities, and Catechesis in the Council of the Bishops' Conferences of Europe. He is lead episcopal trustee of the three English seminaries outside the United Kingdom – The Royal English College, Valladolid, as well as the Beda College and the Venerable English Colleges in Rome. He is assisted in this role by two further episcopal trustees – Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and Mark Jabalé, Bishop Emeritus of Menevia. He undertakes at least one "visitation" to each of these seminaries in each academic year.

He provided the commentary for the BBC's coverage of the funeral of Pope John Paul II in 2005.

By virtue of his status as ordinary of the Birmingham diocese, Nichols was Chairman of the Governing Body of Newman University College (now Newman University). Nichols has been an advocate of the cause of canonisation for Cardinal John Henry Newman. Nichols oversaw the attempted removal of Newman's remains from his grave in Worcestershire to the Oratory in Birmingham city centre in 2008, however on the opening of the grave no human remains were recoverable.

Nichols wrote two books: Promise of Future Glory and Missioners; and had the inspiration for the "Walk with Me" programme, which sought to bring people together in spiritual accompaniment through the seasons of the Church’s year. The initiative later spread to other dioceses.

His coat of arms includes a blue wavy band on a silver shield to represent the River Mersey, scallop shells to represent the Venerable English College in Rome, the red rose of Lancashire, and anchors representing Liverpool: surmounted by the customary green galero (ecclesiastical hat) with twenty green cords and tassels (for an archbishop).

Archbishop of Westminster

Nichols in Westminster Cathedral

Nichols was appointed the eleventh Archbishop of Westminster by Pope Benedict XVI on 3 April 2009, and solemnly installed on 21 May 2009.[13] The archdiocese, the primatial see of the Church in England and Wales, serves 472,600 Catholics.[14] It was reported that Benedict XVI personally selected Nichols for the post after the Congregation for Bishops failed to reach a consensus.[15]

In the time leading up to the appointment, Nichols' name had been repeatedly mentioned as a possible successor to Murphy-O'Connor, and his name was the only one to be on both ternas, or shortlist of candidates submitted to the Congregation for Bishops.[15] A group of English Catholic bishops, as well as a member of parliament, had even expressed their concerns of promoting Nichols to Westminster to the Apostolic Nuncio, Faustino Sainz Muñoz, citing the archbishop's ambition.[16]

In his decision to accept the "daunting" role of Archbishop of Westminster, Nichols said he "just swallowed hard and said 'yes.'"[17]

He succeeded Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 in 2007. Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor described his successor as "competent, compassionate, and experienced."[17]

As expected,[17] Nichols was elected President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales by unanimous acclamation on 30 April 2009.[18]

He received his second pallium from Pope Benedict XVI in Rome on 29 June 2009, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.[19]

He was appointed a member of the Congregation for Bishops on 16 December 2013 by Pope Francis.[20] On 19 February 2014. he was appointed a member of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

Elevation into the College of Cardinals

On 12 January 2014 Pope Francis announced that Nichols would be created a cardinal at the consistory of the Church held on 22 February 2014. Cardinal Nichols was formally elevated to the Sacred College of Cardinals by Pope Francis on 22 February 2014, receiving the traditional red biretta and gold ring during a ceremony in Saint Peter's Basilica. He was created Cardinal-Priest of Church of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Rome.


Once considered to be liberal,[2] Nichols was perceived by some as having moved to more conservative positions.[15][21] Some have suggested this was the result of advice early in his career from Archbishop Worlock to make himself more "Vatican-friendly" if he was to get ahead in the Church hierarchy.[22] Before his enthronement as Archbishop of Westminster, he was vocal in defending the public reputation of the Catholic Church, notably criticising the BBC for what he called "biased and hostile" programming, which contributed to the decision by the BBC not to show the animated sitcom Popetown.[23]

In August 2010, Nichols expressed support for the echoes of Catholic teaching emerging in the language of the new Coalition Government. In particular, he is enthusiastic at the opportunities offered by Mr Cameron's call for a Big Society. Nichols said that "It gives us an experience of being together in a place that turns things on their head a bit". He expressed excitement at the potential for the Coalition and reveals he had become disillusioned with the Labour administration. "The last government was too overarching. In attempting to create a state that provided everything, it ended up losing touch with the people it was trying to serve."[24] In April 2011, however, he was critical about the effectiveness of the Big Society, saying, "It is all very well to deliver speeches about the need for greater voluntary activity, but there needs to be some practical solutions. The Big Society [...] has no teeth [...] and should not be used as a cloak for masking central cuts"[25]

Church child abuse scandal

While he was Archbishop of Birmingham, he had to respond to the [26]

Interfaith relations

Nichols played a prominent role in producing the 1996 CBCEW document, Common Good and Catholic Social Teaching,[27] in which the English Catholic bishops condemned the rhetoric of greed in a move interpreted as an endorsement of New Labour.[2]

In 2004, he prominently intervened in an argument pitching religious offence against artistic freedom when he criticised Birmingham Repertory Theatre for showing the play Behzti (Dishonour), which depicted scenes of sexual abuse and murder in a Sikh temple. He argued that the Sikh community had acted in a "reasonable and measured way" in representing their concerns. "Such a deliberate, even if fictional, violation of the sacred place of the Sikh religion demeans the sacred places of every religion. People of all faiths, therefore, will be offended by this presentation."

In March 2009, he allowed the Catholic chapel at a Roman Catholic college in Birmingham to be used for the commemoration of the birth of the Islamic prophet Muhammad with interfaith debate in the college chapel, sparking some local controversy.[28] Nichols defended the location of the celebration, saying through his spokesman, "Christian/Muslim dialogue is an important part of the Catholic Church's agenda."[29]

In November 2009, he "offered flowers at the altar to the deities" during a visit to the Hindu Temple in Neasden.[30] When the action occasioned press comment, details of the episode were removed from the Archdiocese of Westminster's website.[31]


Nichols supported the effort to have Catholic adoption agencies exempted from sexual orientation regulations.[32] His position was qualified by his statement during a BBC interview that he would not oppose adoption by a gay person that was single. Mary Ann Sieghart, a journalist, commenting for The Times on Nichols' statements on the subject, observed that "had the Catholic position been more hardline, it might have stood more of a chance.


In 2006, Nichols denounced then-Secretary for Education Alan Johnson's plan to introduce a quota for non-Catholic pupils at Catholic schools as "insulting", "divisive", and "ill thought-out, unworkable and contradictory of empirical evidence". He mobilised over 2,000 Catholic school headteachers in his campaign and the plan was eventually dropped.

In August 2009, he warned that in his view the overuse by young people of online social networking websites (such as Facebook and MySpace) encouraged teenagers to build "transient relationships" that can leave them traumatised and even suicidal when they collapse: "We're losing some of the ability to build interpersonal communication that's necessary for living together and building a community." [33][34]

In February 2010, Nichols was thanked by British education minister Ed Balls for supporting a sexual education bill which would require schools – including Catholic schools – to explain civil partnerships and, as Balls put it, give "a balanced view on abortion... give both sides of the argument... explain how to access an abortion, the same is true on contraception as well." Balls characterised the position of Nichols and the Church agencies as an improvement on the previous situation: "To have the support of the Catholic Church and Archbishop Nichols in these changes is, I think, very, very important, is a huge step forward."[35]

Prison chaplaincy

In October 2010 Nichols made a defence of Catholic prison chaplaincy in a speech at Brixton Prison in London. He criticised suggestions that amid budget cuts the state should only fund a single "generic chaplaincy" in British prisons. He said: "There are some today who seem to see a future with some sort of 'generic chaplaincy', providing spiritual support irrespective of the church family of the person, as part of a package of care and rehabilitation to all ... That is, of course, valuable, and no chaplain would or should turn away any person who seeks help. But where I part company from such thinking is in the idea that a generic approach can ever be truly respectful or sufficient."[36]

Reception of former Anglicans

On 20 October 2009, Cardinal William Levada and Archbishop Joseph DiNoia held a press conference in which they announced that Pope Benedict XVI was preparing to release an apostolic constitution that would allow Anglicans, both laity and clergy, to join the Catholic Church in groups and maintain their corporate identity in new Personal Ordinariates for former Anglicans entering the Roman Catholic Church.[37]

A joint statement on the new protocol from Nichols and the Anglican Communion's head, Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, was issued at the same time in London.[38] The joint statement said that the development reflected "substantial overlap in faith, doctrine and spirituality between the Catholic Church and the Anglican tradition" and affirmed "on-going official dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion", including the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) and International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM).

However, Canon Giles Fraser, an Anglican canon of St Paul's Cathedral, preaching at an ecumenical service at Nichols' own cathedral in Westminster, suggested "...there are some – and indeed in both churches – who do not see it like this at all. For from the Anglican perspective, this new invitation to swim the Tiber can sometimes have a slightly predatory feel; in corporate terms, a little like a take over bid in some broader power play of church politics."[39]


In 2011, Nichols and former MP Henry Edward Manning. Nichols said that although the pub was originally called The Windsor Castle, the name The Cardinal has a better historical connection to the area and that "The reason why it was changed was because of the great impact that Cardinal Manning had on the life of London".[40] Despite the petition, the pub was renamed.[41]


Vincent Nichols urged Catholic academics, charities, politicians, theologians and lay Catholics to work towards the "Church for the poor" that Pope Francis advocated. Nichols believes society has a moral imperative

(…) to attend first to those who are most vulnerable, and at present that includes rising numbers of children. (…) there are growing numbers of hungry pupils in classrooms across the [UK] country and many accounts of parents foregoing their own meals in order to provide for their children. (…) A social safety net that fails to protect essentials such as food and shelter for those who cannot work, is not worthy of being regarded as a safety net at all.

Nichols stressed the need for fair wages, stating the private sector, the social sector, the state and all who have people depending on them for a livelihood are challenged by this.[42]

Nichols argued in 2014 that government changes to social security had "torn apart" the " basic safety net" for very poor families and called them a "disgrace". He claimed that people are risking "destitution" and that the administration of social security has become steadily more "punitive", forcing people to rely on food banks and leaving them with nothing if forms are filled in incorrectly.

So, if applicants don't get it right then they have to wait and they have to wait for 10 days, for two weeks – with nothing, with nothing. And that's why the role of food banks has become so crucial for so many people in Britain today. And for a country of our affluence that quite frankly is a disgrace.[43]

He is the patron of the Passage, a day centre for homeless people founded by the Daughters of Charity near Westminster Cathedral.


Cardinal Nichols, has spoken out against the use of arguments which stoke up "distress" about foreigners coming to the UK. His comments come amid a furore over a new £1.5 million advertising campaign by the UK Independence Party which includes billboards suggesting to people that millions of foreigners are after their job. One poster shows a massive finger pointing at the reader next to the message: “Twenty six million people in Europe are looking for work – and whose job are they after?” Last year Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, condemned a Home Office poster campaign telling illegal immigrants to “go home or face arrest” as “nasty”.[44]

See also


  1. ^ "Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols becomes Cardinal".  
  2. ^ a b c d Topping, Alexandra (3 April 2009). "Profile: Archbishop Vincent Nichols".  
  3. ^ "How St Mary's drove me to succeed". Retrieved 23 May 2009. 
  4. ^ "St. Mary's Church, Wigan". Retrieved 7 April 2009. 
  5. ^ "St. John Rigby College, Orrell". Retrieved 7 April 2009. 
  6. ^ "St. Peter's High School, Wigan". Retrieved 7 April 2009. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f "Pope announces Archbishop-elect of Westminster".  
  8. ^ Elena Curti, "Pastor with a political touch," The Tablet 11 April 2009, 6
  9. ^ "Archbishop Nichols' Coat of Arms". Shouts in the Piazza. 3 April 2009. 
  10. ^ "Catholic Education and Formation". Catholic Church in England and Wales. Retrieved 7 April 2009. 
  11. ^ Pigott, Robert (3 April 2009). "A 'tough champion' for Catholics".  
  12. ^ "International Young Leaders Network". Retrieved 7 April 2009. 
  13. ^ "Rinuncia Dell'Arcivescovo Metropolita Di Westminster (Inghilterra) E Nomina Del Successore".  
  14. ^ "Other Pontifical Acts".  
  15. ^ a b c Gledhill, Ruth (3 April 2009). "Most Rev Vincent Nichols to be head of English Catholics". The Times (London). 
  16. ^ Wynne-Jones, Jonathan (14 March 2009). "Leading candidate to be next Catholic Archbishop criticised by fellow bishops".  
  17. ^ a b c Pigott, Robert (3 April 2009). "Catholic Church names new leader".  
  18. ^ "Archbishop Nichols unanimously elected President of Bishops' Conference".  
  19. ^ "Archbishop of Westminster receives Pallium from Pope Benedict XVI". Catholic Communications Network. Retrieved 30 June 2009. 
  20. ^ "RINUNCE E NOMINE". Vatican Press, 16 December 2013. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  21. ^ Thompson, Damian (2 April 2009). "Archbishop Vincent Nichols is the new leader of Catholics in England and Wales, sources confirm".  
  22. ^ Elena Curti, "Pastor with a political touch" in The Tablet, 2009
  23. ^ "England, Wales get new Catholic leader".  
  24. ^ Archbishop Vincent Nichols interview
  25. ^ Archbishop Vincent Nichols interview
  26. ^ "Church failed to act on child sex abuse".  
  27. ^ "Common Good and Catholic Social Teaching". Retrieved 7 April 2009. 
  28. ^ Thompson, Damian (11 March 2009). "'"Celebration of the birth of Mohammed 'held in chapel of Birmingham Catholic college.  
  29. ^ Thompson, Damian (12 March 2009). "Archbishop Nichols defends use of chapel for event marking Mohammed's birthday".  
  30. ^ "Archbishop Nichols visits Europe's first traditional Hindu temple".  
  31. ^ Thompson, Damian (23 November 2009). "'"Archbishop Vincent Nichols 'offered flowers at the altar of Hindu deities.  
  32. ^ Gledhill, Ruth. "Prelate fights gay adoption law". The Times (London).  at
  33. ^ "Archbishop issues networking websites warning". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2 July 2009. 
  34. ^ Wynne-Jones, Jonathan. "Facebook and MySpace can lead children to commit suicide, warns Archbishop Nichols". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2 July 2009. 
  35. ^ "U.K. Commons Passes Sex-Ed Bill Forcing Schools to Promote Homosexuality, Abortion". (London). Retrieved 2 December 2011. 
  36. ^ Archbishop Nichols defends Catholic prison chaplaincy
  37. ^ Note of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans Entering the Catholic Church
  38. ^ Joint statement by the Archbishop of Westminster and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Retrieved 3 October 2011.
  39. ^ Text of sermon by Canon Giles Fraser at Westminster Cathedral, 18 January 2011.
  40. ^ "Archbishop supports The Cardinal pub name petition".  
  41. ^ "Victoria Essential Guide" (pdf).  
  42. ^ Child Poverty Statistics: Archbishop Vincent Nichols – Catholics must not “shy from adding our voice to public debate”
  43. ^ Catholic archbishop attacks welfare reform'A disgrace': Britain's Catholic leader Vincent Nichols attacks Coalition's welfare reforms
  44. ^ [1]
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Maurice Noël Léon Couve de Murville
Archbishop of Birmingham
Succeeded by
Bernard Longley
Preceded by
Cormac Murphy-O'Connor
Archbishop of Westminster

External links

  • Archdiocese of Birmingham
  • Archdiocese of Westminster
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