The Synod Delegation for England and Wales

An introduction to the delegates from England and Wales

The delegation to the 1980 Synod of Bishops for England and Wales was comprised of Cardinal George Basil Hume, the Archbishop of Westminster, and Archbishop Derek Worlock of Liverpool. Accompanying them were Fr Vincent Nichols, now the Archbishop of Westminster, Monsignor Joseph Leo Alston, a classics expert, and Monsignor George Leonard, Cardinal Hume’s personal assistant.

Below you will find a short biography on each delegate.

Cardinal George Basil Hume

George Hume was born on 2 March 1923 in Newcastle-on-Tyne. He was the son of a distinguished doctor from the Borders (an Anglican), Sir William Hume, and a Frenchwoman, Marie Tisseyre, daughter of a distinguished military family. 

Hume first sought admission to the Benedictine Order. After World War II, he obtained a history degree at Oxford, and a further theological degree at Fribourg, Switzerland. He worked at Ampleforth as monk, master and then housemaster, having been ordained priest in 1950. 

He was elected abbot in 1963, the head of a community of 150 monks. Many of them ran parishes in the inner cities of northern England, and he became their friend as well as their superior. In 1976, Pope Paul VI appointed Hume Archbishop of Westminster. Hume was a member of the Council for Christian Unity in Rome, and in 1979 became the head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.  He continued in these positions until his death of abdominal cancer in 1999.

Archbishop Derek Worlock

Derek John Harford Worlock was born in London on 4 February 1920, the second son of Captain Harford Worlock and Dora Worlock.  He began his studies for the priesthood in January 1934 at St Edmund’s College, Ware, in Hertfordshire, and later studied at the nearby seminary, Allen Hall.

Cardinal Bernard Griffin ordained him to the priesthood on 3rd June 1944 in Westminster Cathedral, and after a brief time as an assistant priest in Our Lady of Victories, Kensington, in war-torn London, he was appointed Private Secretary to the Cardinal. He remained at Westminster, as Secretary to three successive Cardinals, for some 19 years. There followed in 1964 a short time as parish priest of St. Mary and St. Michael’s, Stepney, with a team of five priests.

Between 1962 and 1965 he attended every session of the Second Vatican Council as an expert (peritus), on the role of lay people in the Church, and as Secretary to the English and Welsh Bishops attending the Council. When the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales was set up officially in 1967 Bishop Worlock served it as Episcopal Secretary alongside the President, Cardinal Heenan. He then served as Vice-President of the Conference with its President, Cardinal Hume. In February 1976 he was appointed Archbishop of Liverpool. He died in Lourdes Hospital, Liverpool on Thursday 8th February 1996 following a long battle with cancer.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols

The Most Rev Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, was born in Crosby, Liverpool, the son of two teachers. Archbishop Nichols was ordained in 1969, after studying at the English College in Rome, Manchester University and Loyola University, Chicago. His first parish was in Wigan, where he was also a chaplain to a sixth-form college and school. He then worked in Toxteth, Liverpool, before being made director of the Upholland Northern Institute adult education centre in 1980.

He left the Archdiocese of Liverpool four years later, to take up the role of general secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales in London, working closely with the then Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Basil Hume.

In 1992, he became the youngest bishop in Britain, when he joined the Westminster Archdiocese as auxiliary bishop, with special pastoral responsibility for north London before becoming Archbishop of Birmingham in 2000. The Most Rev Vincent Nichols was appointed the eleventh Archbishop of Westminster by Pope Benedict XVI on 3 April 2009, and installed on 21 May 2009. He was elected President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales by unanimous acclamation on 30 April 2009.

Monsignor Joseph Leo Alston

Joseph Leo Alston was born in Chorley on 17 December 1917, the son of Benjamin and Mary Elizabeth Alston. He attended St Mary’s RC Elementary School in Devonshire Road, Chorley before moving at the age of 12 to study for the priesthood at St Joseph’s College, Upholland.  He was ordained to the priesthood at Stonyhurst on 8 February 1942. In October 1942 he went to read Classics at Cambridge University; while there he was elected Scholar of Christ’s College in 1944 and gained a First Class Degree in Classics in 1945. The same year he returned to the Archdiocese of Liverpool to teach Classics at St Joseph’s College, Upholland, where he became Headmaster in 1952.

In 1963 he was appointed as Rector of the Venerable English College, Rome and created a Domestic Prelate with the title Right Reverend Monsignor. In February 1972 he returned to England to become Parish Priest of Sacred Heart, Ainsdale. He retired in 1997 and continued to live in the Southport area until he died peacefully on the morning of Wednesday 27 September 2006.

Monsignor George Leonard

George Roper Leonard, priest, was born in Runcorn, Cheshire, on 9 May 1929.  George was educated at Ushaw College, Durham, and studied for the priesthood at the English College in Rome. Because of ill-health, he had to return home and completed his studies at Oscott College, Birmingham. He was ordained a priest 1957, as first served as a parish priest in the Shrewsbury diocese 1957-71. He was the Deputy Information Officer for the Catholic Information Office from 1971-75, and its Chief Information Officer 1975-78.  

In 1978 Mgr. Leonard became the Personal Assistant for Non-Diocesan Affairs to Cardinal Hume 1978, and served in this position until 1984, when he became the Director for Communications for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. In 1989, he went to work as a parish priest at St Bede’s in Croxley Green. Monsignor Leonard died on 20 January 1993.