The Funeral of the Former Bishop of Plymouth – Christopher Budd
The funeral of Bishop Christopher Budd – Bishop Emeritus of Plymouth 1937 – 2023 – took place on Friday 5 May at Sacred Heart Church in Exeter. The principal celebrant was the Most Reverend John Wilson, Archbishop of Southwark. The funeral was attended by Bishop Christopher’s sister Jean and cousin Fr Basil Pearson, nieces and nephews, bishops, including the former Catholic Bishop of Plymouth, the Most Reverend Mark O’Toole, the High Sheriff of Devon (Bishop) Nick McKinnel, priests, deacons, religious, friends, and people who had been impacted by his life and ministry from across the south west.
Ahead of the funeral, Cardinal Vincent Nichols wrote: “The death of Bishop Christopher Budd is a loss that has touched so many and especially those who knew him in the course of his rich and varied ministry as priest and bishop.”
He continued: “For my part, I first knew Chris as a post-graduate student at the Venerable English College in Rome, where he acted not only as a guide and tutor but also as an inspiration. There, and in every moment of his ministry, he showed that utter fidelity to the Lord and to His Church, combined with zeal and a consistently joyful faith, with which we are all familiar.
“In the Diocese of Brentwood, in the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council and of course in the Diocese of Plymouth his presence was a constant encouragement and example. As a member of our Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales he enjoyed the deep respect and affection of us all.”
The Cardinal offered his assurances to “all present…his family and every person of the Diocese of Plymouth, of my sincere condolences and fervent prayers as the body of this true and humble servant of the Lord is laid to rest. May the angels escort him to his heavenly home and may we encourage and console each other as he would most certainly wish.”
Monsignor John Allen, a good friend of Bishop Christopher Budd’s since student days in Rome (1956 onwards) preached the homily at the funeral.
He spoke of Bishop Budd’s love of family; his dedication to the training and care of priests; his friendships with fellow-Christians in the Diocese of Plymouth; his commitment to social concern and outreach and his love of sport, especially cricket, amongst other things.
Monsignor Allen stayed with Bishop Budd a week before he died. During that time, the bishop showed him the place where he would be buried. “Neither of us thought it would be so soon,” he said. “But the thought of death did not bother him. He was completely at ease, and peaceful, serene in soul.”
Bishop Christopher Budd’s body was laid to rest at St Mary’s Cemetery, Buckfast Abbey.
Please read the Homily from Bishop Christopher’s funeral and a message from Cardinal Nicholls below.
HOMILY, BISHOP HUGH CHRISTOPHER BUDD
The archives of the Venerable English College in Rome contain many treasures. One such is a letter written by St Charles Borromeo. Borromeo was then the Archbishop of Milan, and he wrote to the rector of the English College to invite the students from the College to stay with him on their way back to England. Already he had hosted some future martyrs from the College, including Sts Ralph Sherwin, Luke Kirby and Edmund Campion.
Christopher Budd and I felt that the invitation from St Charles Borromeo still stood. So it was that on a June night in 1963, after completing seven years at the English College in Rome, we took the train from Rome to Milan. We were on our way back to England, now as priests. And the following morning, there in Milan’s cathedral, we celebrated Mass over the tomb of St Charles.
I mention this because I see a resemblance between St Charles Borromeo and the eighth bishop of Plymouth. Borromeo for example put great effort into realising the reforms of the recent Council, the Council of Trent. The Council of Trent had said how the sacred mysteries should be celebrated with utmost reverence, with deepest feeling toward God, and with worship that was truly suitable and becoming. Borromeo pursued that in his diocese of Milan. He re-ordered and simplified his cathedral, not without opposition. I remember visiting Plymouth when a similar operation was taking place. Bishop Christopher was also putting great effort into realising the reforms of the recent 2nd Vatican Council. He too met with opposition when he re-ordered Plymouth cathedral. In fact in some details he had to back down. But there was no mistaking the fact that, like Borromeo, he was a man of faith and prayer. Borromeo was known to repeat, ‘Souls are won on one’s knees’. Bishop Christopher too was rooted in prayer, and in the love of the Scriptures. His first official photograph as bishop shows him holding a copy of the Lectionary – another of the Vatican Council’s reforms, opening up the reading of the Word of God.
The Council of Trent emphasised the need for good priests and for their education. So St Charles Borromeo established colleges and seminaries to educate candidates for holy orders. He visited the parishes and encouraged his priests to be true pastors. Bishop Christopher too knew the value of training priests. Hadn’t he been theology tutor at the College in Rome, and rector of Wonersh? Along with academic rigour he stressed the need of human development. But more than that, he wanted to be always available to his priests, to encourage them, and he sought to be a true father and friend to them, as the 2nd Vatican Council urged bishops to be. He made a special effort to visit those who were sick or retired so that they would continue to feel part of the priestly body of the diocese. In his retirement, he continued his practice of writing to every one of his priests at Christmas.
We are grateful nowadays for the deeper understanding and the closer friendships between followers of Christ. Things were sharper in Borromeo’s time. Trent had re-stated and clarified Catholic teaching, and condemned Protestant heresies. Even so, when St Charles visited regions which had turned Calvinist, his speech was all charity and tenderness, about the all-embracing love of God. Inspired by the 2nd Vatican Council Bishop Christopher forged strong links with his fellow-Christians in this diocese, links which have stood the test of time.
While Borromeo was archbishop in Milan the crops failed and there was a great famine. That was later made worse by an outbreak of the plague. Many of those in charge of the city fled. Archbishop Charles stayed. He organised care for the very many afflicted. He used up his own funds to feed the hungry. Move on to England at the time of the second millennium and we find Bishop Christopher engaged in similar work: in the Bishops’ Department for Social Justice and Director of the Catholic Agency for Social Concern, now part of Caritas.
When he went as archbishop to Milan, St Charles inherited a huge palace. In one corner of it, he occupied two small rooms, a bedroom and a study next to the chapel. The rest was provided for guests. As you know, Bishop Christopher sold the bishop’s house at Hartley and moved into the small flat next to the cathedral.
That visit to Milan cathedral sixty years ago, and the Mass offered there, probably bore more fruit than one could have imagined. Mgr Bart Nannery was close to Bishop Christopher over many years. Later in the Mass he will testify to Christopher’s implementation of the Vatican Council in this diocese, to his priesthood, and also to his love of family.
In his student days in Rome, Christopher had been an excellent all-rounder, whether in company or studies or acting or sport, especially cricket. His natural leadership qualities were obvious. He was the dean of our year. He was elected senior student in the College in our top year. His theatrical japes included the role of Sir Despard Murgatroyd in Ruddigore, and the famous lyric ‘Oh, why am I moody and sad? And why am I guiltily mad?’ A self-description that could not have been further from the truth! His drollery made him firmly one of the night’s successes.
And that’s a reminder of another saint who also had an influence on us. St Philip Neri lived just across the road from the English College. St Philip had a favourite saying, ‘A heart filled with joy is more easily made perfect than one that is sad.’ He hung a sign outside his home which read ‘The House of Christian Mirth.’ Can’t we see how that spirit rubbed off on Christopher? A light-heartedness, the characteristic chuckle, the humour which always broke through! St John Henry Newman wrote how Philip Neri gave the same welcome to all … he was accessible and willing to receive all comers … Something there also that we can recognise.
Our thoughts and prayers today are also focussed on those very close in this life to Bishop Christopher. First and foremost, on you Jean, his only surviving sibling. You’ve spoken of Christopher as a wonderful brother to you when you were young, along with Tony and Mary, and Michael and Anne. And how you gelled as a normal family, as you grew up during the 2nd World War. Christopher was constant in his visits to you, and you will certainly miss those. Our thoughts and prayers are also with you, his 26 nephews and nieces, and your families. How much Christopher valued his family ties! How much he tried to stay close to you all in spite of his other responsibilities! And then, Richard and Susan King. Your home was Bishop Christopher’s home, and there, had he lived, he would have ended his days. There are others also, too numerous to mention, not least those of you in the brotherhood of the priesthood.
An important date in Christopher’s diary was our annual year’s reunion. Several times he hosted us in this diocese. Only recently, Bishop Christopher had invited me to stay with him at Kingskirswell, and so I did, the week before he died. I am so grateful for those four days, when we said Mass together, and shared morning and evening prayer, and had days out – at Buckfast, at Torquay. On that visit to Buckfast, he bought two more books to add to his always extending library: one by Bishop Tom Wright on the recent pandemic, the other on Grace. He also pointed out to me the place where he would be buried. Neither of us thought it would be so soon. But the thought of death did not bother him. He was completely at ease, and peaceful, serene in soul. He refused any experimental chemotherapy. ‘Let things take their course’.
Many years ago, when he was theology tutor in Rome, Christopher had mused about his role. How best could he help his students? What was he aiming to do? And he concluded, ‘A theological training should have the final result of producing a person who can think theologically; and to think theologically is to have God, and the dispensation God has set up for mankind, as a constant theme in one’s thought processes.’ A constant theme. To have God, and the dispensation God has set up for mankind.
The Scripture readings of this Mass encompass that theme. Bishop Christopher chose those readings himself. They resonate with resurrection. The Gospel passage we’ve heard so many times. And we listen to it as something that happened in the past. Imagine it as if we were there. And we don’t know what’s going to happen next. Martha is surely in tears as she speaks. Yes, she believes her brother will rise. But that will be ‘on the last day’. Jesus prepares her for a great miracle. Her brother does rise. He returns to ordinary human life. But then Jesus speaks of a further resurrection. And it comes through him. ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever lives and believes in me will never die.’
And how can that be? St Paul explains. By his death, Christ Jesus has reconciled us to the Father. And now, says Paul, we can count on being saved by his life. That is, by his risen and glorious life after his resurrection. So, says Paul, we ‘are filled with joyful trust’.
That was something Isaiah had foreseen long before, when he said how God ‘will destroy death for ever’. He will wipe away our tears. We find the same truth later, in the Book of Revelation (21:4): ‘God will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness. The world of the past has gone.’
All of us here today treasure our friendship with Bishop Christopher. We look back in thanksgiving. But his humility would ask us at this time to think of his shortcomings more than his virtues. The best way we can repay his friendship then is to remember him in prayer, and especially at the altar of God. In the light of the Word of God, we can all say, ‘Farewell, until we meet again.’ Eternal rest grant to him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.
Monsignor John Allen
Message from Cardinal Vincent Nichols
My brothers and sisters,
The death of Bishop Christopher Budd is a loss that has touched so many and especially those who knew him in the course of his rich and varied ministry as priest and bishop.
Today we pray for him, that our merciful Father receive him into the glory of the Divine presence where he will partake fully in the praise of God which was always the focus of his earthly life. We also give thanks to God for the graces which he gave to Bishop Christopher and to us, through his ministry.
For my part, I first knew Chris as a post-graduate student at the Venerable English College in Rome, where he acted not only as a guide and tutor but also as an inspiration. There, and in every moment of his ministry, he showed that utter fidelity to the Lord and to His Church, combined with zeal and a consistently joyful faith, with which we are all familiar.
In the Diocese of Brentwood, in the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council and of course in the Diocese of Plymouth his presence was a constant encouragement and example. As a member of our Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales he enjoyed the deep respect and affection of us all.
I would like to assure all present today, his family and every person of the Diocese of Plymouth, of my sincere condolences and fervent prayers as the body of this true and humble servant of the Lord is laid to rest. May the angels escort him to his heavenly home and may we encourage and console each other as he would most certainly wish.
With my prayers and blessing,
Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster
President of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales
Bishop Christopher Budd Obituary