Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, was given the red hat in a Feb. 22 consistory, now that his predecessor Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor has passed the age of 80.
Cardinal Nichols was born in Crosby, Merseyside, in 1945, and studied for the priesthood at the Venerable English College and the Gregorian University in Rome.
He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Liverpool in 1969 and served there for 14 years before taking on a number of roles in the English and Welsh bishops’ conference.
In 1992, he was consecrated an auxiliary bishop of the Westminster archdiocese; he was 46, and at the time, the youngest of the British bishops.
Cardinal Nichols was transferred in 2000 to become the ordinary of the Birmingham archdiocese, where he served until his appointment as Archbishop of Westminster in 2009.
While Archbishop of Birmingham, he was vocal in defending the public reputation of the Church and, according to Damian Thompson, in 2007 he was “the only bishop (in England and Wales) who appears to understand” Benedict XVI’s liberalization of the extraordinary form of the Mass, “and seems prepared to respond to it.”
Cardinal Nichols was instrumental in the preparation of Benedict’s apostolic constitution “Anglicanorum coetibus,” which provided for Anglicans to enter the Church in groups and to retain elements of their patrimony in structures known as “ordinariates.”
He has advocated for the place of the Church in the public square, and defended it against attacks in an increasingly secular Britain. He oversaw Benedict XVI’s 2010 visit to England and Scotland, saying the Pope set a “new agenda” for the faithful, reminding them that “faith in God plays an important role in modern pluralist societies.”
In a 2010 homily, he advocated a culture of “true compassion and healing” that does not fear death but prepares for it with prayer, the sacraments, and “daily abandonment to God.”
In a culture that particularly shies away from death, he said that “a culture of true compassion and healing fosters a deep respect and attentive care of the whole person, it promotes genuine care characterized by a sense of humility, a profound respect for others, and a refusal to see them as no more than a medical or behavioral problem to be tackled and resolved. To care in this way is a gift of oneself to another. And, as with all true giving, the giver also receives.”
He has also been mindful of the importance of letting the Gospel influence public policies, leading a group of bankers in a seminar on the encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” in 2009, and recently criticizing the English government for its plans to significantly cut food aid programs for the impoverished.
Cardinal Nichols, 68, was appointed to the Congregation for Bishops Dec. 16, 2013, shortly before the consistory at which he was made a cardinal. He was one of 19 newly-elevated cardinals, and was appointed cardinal-priest of Santissimo Redentore e Sant’Alfonso in Via Merulana parish in Rome.