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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Sir David Amess: Pope praises MP’s years of ‘devoted public service’ at Westminster Cathedral mass

Fond memories cut through sadness of funeral 

It was an intensely emotional moment as Sir David Amess’s coffin was carried out of Westminster Cathedral.

Mourners wiped their eyes as the late MP’s family walked down the aisle at the end of the funeral mass.

While there was a deeply felt sadness among those gathered to remember Sir David’s life, the mass had featured lighter, happier moments which sparked fond memories.

Ann Widdecombe’s eulogy was particularly well-received, as she recalled Sir David’s fondness for practical jokes and the time he arrived at Parliament on horseback.

A busy Westminster Cathedral shared a warm moment remembering humorous stories about Sir David Amess.

A chuckle rippled through the mourners gathered to remember the late MP as Canon Pat Browne, the Roman Catholic Duty Priest for Parliament, recalled the moment Sir David had a boiled sweet blessed by the Pope.

Laughter broke through the silence again as Canon Browne told the story of Sir David posing in a suit of armour to celebrate his knighthood.

Sir David’s passing still has ‘great air of unreality about it’

Boris Johnson said on Twitter: “Today we mourn the death of Sir David Amess, a beloved colleague, public servant and friend, and pay tribute to his immense contribution to politics, to the people of Southend and to this country.”

The Prime Minister was among mourners at a Requiem Mass at Westminster Cathedral and the message was posted after the service drew to a close.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: “A touching service at Westminster Cathedral in honour of Sir David Amess.

“His lifetime of public service was marked by members of all parties as we came together to mourn his death and celebrate his life. May he rest in peace.”

Ann Widdecombe said the death of Sir David Amess still has “a great air of unreality about it”.

The former Conservative MP paid tribute to Sir David as a “close personal friend” ahead of a 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.

Ms Widdecombe said: “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.”

Asked what Sir David Amess meant to her, Ann Widdecombe said: “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.”

She added: “David, of course, was a practising Catholic. He led the All [Party] Parliamentary Group to the Holy See, met the Pope several times. The Pope has sent a personal message.

“Now, when you consider David wasn’t a senior member of the Government or anything, but I reckon that to the Pope he was probably the most important person in Britain.”

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.

Ms Widdecombe, a friend of Sir David’s, read a statement on behalf of the Amess family, similar to the one released shortly after his death, asking people to “set aside hatred” and urging tolerance.

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.

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.

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”.

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