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Pope praises MP Sir David Amess’s ‘devoted public service’

Pall bearers carry the coffin of Sir David Amess, from Westminster Cathedral, in central London, following his requiem mass. Photo by Kirsty O'Connor/PA

By Sam Blewett and Amy Gibbons, PA Political Staff

The Pope has praised Sir David Amess’s years of “devoted public service” in a message read at a Westminster Cathedral service for the Conservative MP who was killed while serving his constituents.

In the message to the Requiem Mass, Pope Francis called for mourners’ resolve to be strengthened to “combat evil with good” and “build a society of ever greater justice” following the devout Catholic’s death.

Politicians including Boris Johnson, Sir Keir Starmer and three former prime ministers attended the service in central London on Tuesday morning, following a private funeral held in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, a day earlier.

The fatal stabbing of Sir David during a constituency surgery at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea on October 15 deprived Southend West of its long-standing MP and many in Westminster of a beloved friend and colleague.

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”.

“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,” the message continued.

“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.”

Former prime ministers Theresa May, David Cameron and Sir John Major sat side by side at the Mass led by Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols.

They were joined in a pew by Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Mr Johnson.

Labour leader Sir Keir was seen speaking to Sir John and Ms Patel before the ceremony started. Cabinet members also present included Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

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 said, before noting that the MP’s 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.”

Mourners shared a warm moment hearing humorous stories about Sir David.

A chuckle rippled through the congregation as the priest recalled the time when Sir David had a boiled sweet blessed by the Pope.

And laughter broke out again as Canon Browne spoke about the MP posing in a suit of armour to celebrate his knighthood.

The 69-year-old had served Southend West since 1997, and Basildon before that since 1983.

Ali Harbi Ali, 25, has been charged with Sir David’s 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.

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