While Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, he served for 18 years as Co-Chairman of the Anglican and Roman Catholic International Commission. He was also chairman of the English and Welsh bishops' Committee for Christian Unity from 1983 and chairman of the Department for Mission and Unity from 1994.
In recognition of his work for Christian unity throughout his episcopate, the cardinal was awarded an honorary doctorate of divinity by George Carey, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, in 2000.
He was criticized when it was discovered that as Bishop of Arundel and Brighton he had failed to report a priest, Fr. Michael Hill, who was convicted for child sexual abuse in 1997. After this incident, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor invited the judge Lord Nolan in 2000 to investigate the issue of pedophile priests and child protection in the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
The Nolan Report was published in 2001. As a result of the report, the Church in England and Wales formed the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults to centrally manage applications through the Criminal Records Bureau ensuring thorough background checks of anyone working with children or vulnerable adults.
In 2002, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor launched a spiritual renewal program in Westminster which during its three years brought together 20,000 people in regular weekly faith groups throughout the diocese.
It was also in 2002 that he became the first member of the Catholic hierarchy to deliver a sermon to an English monarch since 1680. At the invitation of Queen Elizabeth II, he gave a homily for members of the royal family during the Anglican morning service at Sandringham, the queen's country residence in Norfolk.
Pope Francis sent Cardinal Nichols a telegram Sept. 2 offering his condolences for Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor's death. "Recalling with immense gratitude the late cardinal's distinguished service to the Church in England and Wales, his unwavering devotion to the preaching of the Gospel and the care of the poor, and his far-sighted commitment to the advancement of ecumenical and interreligious understanding, I willingly join you in commending his noble soul to the infinite mercies of God our heavenly Father," the Pope wrote.
Justin Welby, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, said Friday that Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor's death "represents a loss to his innumerable friends, to the church and to the country … his humility, sense and holiness made him a church leader of immense impact."
"His words and his life drew people to God. His genial warmth, pastoral concern and genuine love for those in his care will be missed, but also celebrated with thanks. May he rest in peace and rise in glory."
Funeral arrangements for the cardinal have yet to be announced.