Who Was Cardinal Heenan?

Our school has been known as Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School since 1983.  Previously it has also been called Cardinal Allen, St Catherine's and Leyfield School.

John Carmel Heenan was born on 26th January 1905.  He studied at St Ignatius College, Stamford Hill and aged 17 moved to Ushaw Seminary near Durham.  At the age of 19 he entered the Venerable English College in Rome.  He was ordained in 1930 and was sent to St Ethelburga's in Barking, Essex.

In 1951 John Carmel Heenan was named Bishop of Leeds and there is in fact a Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School in the north of Leeds.

In 1957, he moved to Liverpool as Archbishop where he launched a competition to build a new Catholic cathedral. The result was the consecration of the renowned Metropolitan Cathedral in 1967. However, by that time Archbishop Heenan had moved in 1963 to the Archdiocese of Westminster and in 1965 was created Cardinal.

Cardinal Heenan attended the Vatican Council from 1962 – 1965. He was cautious yet determined about implementing its decisions in his diocese. He furthered ecumenical dialogue through his warm friendship with the Chief Rabbi and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

In 1968 he invited Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury to Westminster Cathedral for a ground-breaking visit.

He died on 7 November 1975 aged 70 having suffered with ill-health for the previous decade or so. At his own wish he was buried in the nave of Westminster Cathedral, close to the people he had served, so that he might be assured of their prayers.

His galero (cardinal’s hat) hangs above his tomb to this day.

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