Pope’s praise for ‘murdered’ MP: Pontiff pays tribute to David Amess’s years of ‘devoted public service’ in heartfelt note read at Westminster Cathedral – as Boris Johnson joins former PMs and politicians at memorial for stabbed-to-death father-of-five
- Several politicians arrived at Westminster Cathedral this morning for a memorial service for Sir David Amess
- Much-loved MP was stabbed to death while holding a constituency surgery in a local church on October 15
- Coffin was carried into Westminster Cathedral after laying overnight in chapel at the Palace of Westminster
- A message from the Pope will be read during the requiem mass held at Westminster Cathedral this morning
The Pope has paid tribute to Sir David Amess’s years of ‘devoted public service’ in a heartfelt message read out at Westminster Cathedral today during a memorial mass for the ‘murdered’ Tory MP.
In the message to the Requiem Mass, Pope Francis called for mourners to ‘combat evil with good’ and ‘build a society of ever greater justice’ following the devout Catholic politician’s death.
Sir David’s coffin was carried into Westminster Cathedral as Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer led a host of ex-prime ministers and other senior politicians at the memorial service. The Prime Minister and the Labour leader are both set to pay their respects to the father-of-five after he was stabbed to death while holding a constituency surgery at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea on October 15.
As mourners gathered to remember him, the message from the Pope was read by Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, the Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain, to convey ‘his heartfelt condolences and the assurance of his spiritual closeness to the Amess family’.
The message read: ‘His Holiness recalls with gratitude Sir David’s years of devoted public service guided by his strong Catholic faith and evidenced in his deep concern for the poor and the disadvantaged, his commitment to the defence of God’s gift of life, and his efforts to foster understanding and co-operation with the Holy See in its universal mission.
‘Commending Sir David’s soul to the loving mercy of Jesus Christ our Saviour, the Holy Father prays that all who honour his memory will be confirmed in the resolve to reject the ways of violence, to combat evil with good, and to help build a society of ever greater justice, fraternity and solidarity.’
Today’s memorial service, attended by former prime ministers Theresa May, David Cameron and John Major, as well as current ministers like Rishi Sunak, Priti Patel and Sajid Javid, comes after the Tory MP’s private funeral held in Southend a day earlier.
Former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe paid tribute to Sir David as a ‘close personal friend’ ahead of the funeral mass at Westminster Cathedral. She added that she thought Sir David, who was a practising Catholic and led the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Holy See, was ‘probably the most important person in Britain’ to the Pope.
Yesterday, people lined the streets to pay their respects to the Southend West MP as mourners attended a private ecumenical service at St Mary’s Church in Prittlewell on Monday.
Southend West MP Sir David was killed during a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex on October 15.
Ali Harbi Ali, 25, has been charged with his murder and also with preparing acts of terrorism between May 1 2019 and September 28 this year. He is due to enter pleas in December.
Sir David Amess’ coffin arrives at Westminster Cathedral this morning ahead of a memorial service attended by several leading politicians
The coffin laid in the chapel of the Palace of Westminster overnight before arriving at Westminster Cathedral this morning ahead of a memorial service
The hearse carrying the coffin of Sir David Amess MP crosses Parliament Square after leaving the Palace of Westminster where it laid in the chapel overnight
The coffin of Sir David Amess is carried past politicians, including former Prime Ministers Sir John Major, David Cameron and Theresa May, Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Leading politicians watch on as Sir David Amess’ coffin arrived at Westminster Chapel ahead of a memorial service for the MP who was stabbed to death
Sir David Amess’s coffin sits at Westminster Cathedral ahead of his memorial service attended by several leading politicians
Politicians, including former Prime Ministers Sir John Major, David Cameron and Theresa May, Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of the requiem mass
Politicians, from left, former Prime Ministers Sir John Major, David Cameron and Theresa May, Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of the requiem mass for Sir David Amess MP at Westminster Cathedral
Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer (left) speaks with former Prime Minister Sir John Major ahead of the requiem mass for Sir David Amess MP
Sir Keir Starmer spoke with Home Secretary Priti Patel ahead of the service this morning at Westminster Cathedral
Former Prime Ministers Sir John Major (left) and David Cameron ahead of the requiem mass for Sir David Amess MP
The insignia of the Knights Bachelor awarded to Sir David Amess is carried into Westminster Cathedral ahead of the service
A Order of Service placed on seats ahead of a requiem mass for Sir David Amess MP at Westminster Cathedral this morning
The hearse carrying the coffin of Sir David Amess MP leaves the Palace of Westminster where it laid in the chapel overnight, ahead of a requiem mass at Westminster Cathedral
The funeral cortege of Conservative MP David Amess leaves the Houses of Parliament in London ahead of the memorial service
Politicians fill the benches ahead of the memorial service for Sir David Amess at Westminster Cathedral this morning
A man prays as the coffin of slain member of parliament David Amess arrives at Westminster Cathedral for his memorial service
Canon Pat Browne, who knew Sir David well as Parliament’s Roman Catholic duty priest, celebrated the late father-of-five as a ‘true bridge-builder’.
‘David’s death was the catalyst for everyone in Parliament realising their oneness as a community working differently, but together, for the good of the nation in our world,’ he told the service, before noting his success in bringing unity was also witnessed during his life.
‘He literally took his life in his two hands and threw himself into it. And indeed, he died doing so, in service of others.’
Asked what Sir David Amess meant to her, Ann Widdecombe said today: ‘He was a very close personal friend, I was godmother to one of his daughters, I knew the family very well, we stayed with each other.
‘It was one of those friendships which occasionally get formed at Westminster.
‘It still has a great air of unreality about it – I think that’s quite inevitable if you lose a friend suddenly in terrible circumstances.
‘We’re all asking ourselves why, I don’t think anybody can tell you why.
Ms Widdecombe added: ‘Obviously I am feeling sad but, on the other hand, today is a great occasion to see so many people come to pay their respects to David, to celebrate his life. And what I am saying to everybody today is, look, the death was horrible, but I don’t want David for remembered how he died, I want him to be remembered for how he lived and for the causes he fought for.
‘And, of course, this is a mass today – we are commending his soul to almighty God, but also today is a time to remember what he did for people.’
Sir David Amess had been holding a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, last month
Yesterday, Sir David’s coffin, draped in a union flag, was carried by pallbearers from Southend Fire Service. After the church service, they carried the coffin to a horse-drawn hearse for a procession around Southend.
Hundreds of people gathered outside Southend’s Civic Centre to pay their respects as the hearse, led by four black horses, paused in front of it.
Uniformed police officers bowed their heads as the hearse arrived and people applauded.
Following his death, MPs paid tribute to Sir David in the Commons and a service was held in Sir David’s honour at St Margaret’s Church.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer were among around 800 politicians in attendance to hear the Archbishop of Canterbury say the ‘light lit by public service’ provided by MPs like Sir David ‘must never be put out’.
Yesterday, Sir David Amess’s ‘absolutely broken’ family pleaded with Britons to ‘set aside their differences’ in an emotional statement read out at his funeral – as Boris Johnson said ministers ‘broke down’ when they heard of his death.
The Tory MP’s wife, Julia, son, David, and daughters, Flo, Katie, Sarah and Alexandra, were all believed to be at the service.
‘This is the only way forward – set aside hatred and work towards togetherness,’ the family said in a statement read out by Sir David’s friend and former colleague, Ann Widdecombe. ‘Whatever one’s race, religious or political beliefs, be tolerant and try to understand. As a family, we are trying to understand why this awful thing has occurred.
‘Nobody should die in that way. Nobody. Please let some good come from this tragedy. We are absolutely broken, but we will survive and carry on for the sake of a wonderful and inspiring man. We ask at this time that the family’s privacy be respected so that we can grieve in private.’
Earlier, delivering the eulogy, Sir David’s friend Mark Francois MP remembered him as ‘the original Essex cheeky chappy’ and praised his service to Southend, which will now become a city in his posthumous honour.
After a service where a local choir sung Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’, pall bearers from Leigh-On-Sea Fire Station carried the MP’s coffin out of the churchyard of St Mary’s in Prittlewell before it was placed into a horse-drawn hearse, as members of the public broke into spontaneous applause.
Uniformed police officers bowed their heads as the hearse stopped outside Southend’s Civic Centre before pausing again Sir David’s Southend West constituency office, Iveagh Hall, on a bright, if cold, autumn day.
Earlier, Boris Johnson recalled how he was in the middle of a cabinet away day in Bristol when he learned of the veteran MP’s death, and that when he told colleagues several ‘broke down’.
He told BBC Radio Essex: ‘It was clear he inspired feelings of affection, love and admiration for the causes he espoused. He was a guy who campaigned about things he really cared for… He showed what you can achieve as an MP to change lives of people up and down the country and he will be much, much missed.’
Mark Francois praised Sir David’s service to his constituents during his eulogy at his funeral in Southend.
Boris Johnson arrives at Westminster Cathedral this morning for a requiem mass for Sir David Amess after the Tory MP was stabbed to death in October
The Prime Minister and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer are both set to pay their respects to the father-of-five after he was stabbed to death while holding a constituency surgery at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea on October 15
Home Secretary Priti Patel arrives ahead of a requiem mass for Sir David Amess MP at Westminster Cathedral this morning
Chancellor Rishi Sunak arrives at Westminster Cathedral for the memorial for murdered Conservative MP Sir David Amess
Today’s memorial service, attended by former prime ministers Theresa May, David Cameron and John Major, as well as current ministers like Rishi Sunak, Priti Patel and Sajid Javid, comes after the Tory MP’s private funeral held in Southend a day earlier
Former Prime Minister Theresa May (left) and Communities Secretary Michael Gove (right) arrive at a requiem mass held in honour of Sir David Amess MP at Westminster Cathedral
Sir John Major (left) and MP Mark Francois (right) arrive ahead of a requiem mass for Sir David Amess MP at Westminster Cathedral
Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle arrives for a requiem mass for Sir David Amess MP at Westminster Cathedral this morning
Southend West MP Sir David was killed during a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex on October 15
Flowers are carried into Westminster Cathedral, central London, ahead of a requiem mass for Sir David Amess MP
A wreath is carried into Westminster Cathedral, central London, ahead of a requiem mass for Sir David Amess MP
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary George Eustice (left) and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng (right) arrive for a Requiem Mass for Sir David Amess MP at Westminster Cathedral
The Rayleigh and Wickford MP told mourners at St Mary’s Church in Prittlewell: ‘Our electors employ us to represent them in a contract renewable every few years.
‘We work for them and not the other way around, and no-one was ever more conscious of that than David Amess.
‘Whatever one thinks of members of Parliament, and opinions do vary, in my experience MPs of all parties do genuinely try and help other people.’
The Tory MP continued: ‘He was the original Essex cheeky chappy. In short, David Amess had more front than Brighton.
‘He was deeply honoured to be knighted by Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor. As he told the Echo newspaper: ‘I never dreamt that one day a boy from Forest Gate would be made a knight by a Queen in a castle’.
‘He subsequently celebrated by hiring a lightweight suit of armour and turning up to the mayor of Southend’s annual reception on a horse. When he was asked what he thought he was doing, he simply replied: ‘I’m a knight’.’
Mr Francois continued: ‘He put Basildon firmly on the map and he worked tirelessly for Southend.
‘In the end, I think his constituents loved him for it.
‘Just look at the turnout here today in this beautiful house of God, which, before long, will form part of the city of Southend – forever.
‘So, he won in the end. Some would say, including me, that David was a bit of a legend really.’
The former minister also recalled how Sir David had helped break the world record for the most centenarians at one lunch during an event in Southend, recorded an album with Bananarama and had a boiled sweet blessed by the Pope.
Finishing the tribute, Mr Francois said: ‘The David Amess I knew never yielded on an important point of principle to anyone, and so neither shall we.
‘Despite this awful tragedy, we are going to keep calm and carry on, because I earnestly believe that is exactly what he would have wanted us to do.
‘So, we come to say farewell, or perhaps it is adieu, to Sir David Amess – a wonderful husband and father to Lady Julia and their children, a fine parliamentarian and an absolutely brilliant constituency MP.
‘Whatever the weaknesses of Parliament, David Amess was the living embodiment of all its strengths.
‘You see, ladies and gentlemen, in the end he really was, quite literally, a jolly good fellow. And so, I am sure, say all of us.’
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