Papal knighthood conferred on John Hume for peace work


POPE BENEDICT XVI has conferred the honour Knight Commander of the Equestrian Order of Saint Gregory the Great on John Hume in recognition “of his outstanding services to Catholic social teaching in the area of peace”.

In making the announcement yesterday, Msgr Eamon Martin, administrator of Derry diocese, where Mr Hume lives, also said “within the next year, the church will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Blessed John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris, in which he addressed the issues of world peace, justice and human rights”.

“In light of this anniversary, it is particularly appropriate that the Holy Father should recognise Mr Hume with a papal knighthood. Mr Hume has worked tirelessly for peace and justice, at considerable personal cost and risk,” he said.

Mr Hume “testified to the fundamental dignity of human beings and the universal, inviolable and inalienable rights presented by Blessed John XXIII in Pacem in Terris,” he said. John Hume has achieved worldwide recognition for his contribution to peace in Northern Ireland, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998.

The Pontifical Equestrian Order of St Gregory the Great was established in 1831 by Pope Gregory XVI and is the highest honour awarded by a pope, usually in recognition of services to or support for the church. Until 1994, only men received the award.

Previous Irish recipients included tenors John McCormack and Frank Patterson, UCC academic Alfred O’Rahilly, former governor of the Central Bank Maurice Moynihan, retired UN official Francis O’Donnell and the late comedian Frank Carson.

In 2010, Dr Margaret Downes, the first female director of Bank of Ireland, received the female equivalent award of Dame Commander of the Order of St Gregory the Great for services to St Mary’s parish on Dublin’s Haddington Road.

Recipients abroad have included Manchester United manager Matt Busby, boxer Henry Cooper, DJ Jimmy Savile, and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of the Special Olympics who became a Dame Commander of the Equestrian Order of Saint Gregory the Great in 2006.

In 1998, Pope John Paul bestowed the honour on three non-Catholics in Los Angeles. They included comedian Bob Hope (later a convert to Catholicism) and his Catholic wife Dolores, entertainment executive Roy Disney, nephew of Walt Disney, and his Catholic wife Patricia, and most controversially, News International’s Rupert Murdoch and his Catholic wife Anna.

All had contributed significantly to Catholic causes. In 1999, Mr Murdoch donated $10 million to the new Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. That year he also divorced and married his third and current wife Wendi Deng.