The Catholic Archdicese of Birmingham Archives

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MCM - Papers of Archbishop Couve de Murville

Dates: 1948-2007

Number of records in this collection: 3853


Maurice Noël Léon Couve de Murville was born on 27 June 1929 at St Germain-en-Laye, near Paris, France. His parents, Noël Couve de Murville (1893-1975) and Marie Souchon (1895-1946), were from the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, but moved to England when Maurice was seven years old. He was educated at St Andrew's School, Leatherhead, Surrey, and at St John Fisher School, Purley, and Downsend School, Leatherhead, before completing his secondary education at Downside Abbey School, Somerset. In 1947 he went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, to read Modern History. Upon graduation in 1950 he entered the Seminaire des Carmes in Paris and studied at the Institut Catholique, gaining the degree of S.T.L. in 1957. Ordained deacon in Paris on 29 June 1956, he was ordained priest on 29 June 1957 in Leatherhead by the Rt Rev. Cyril Conrad Cowderoy, Bishop of Southwark, and was sent as assistant priest to the parish of St Anselm, Dartford, Kent. In 1960, he moved to the parish of St Joseph, Brighton, Sussex, for a year, before being appointed priest-in-charge of St Francis, Moulsecoomb, Brighton. He was also appointed Catholic Chaplain to the newly-formed University of Sussex, of which he was full-time chaplain between 1964 and 1977; during this time he completed the degree of M.Phil of the University of London. Chaplain to the Catholic students at the University of Cambridge between 1977 and 1982, he was nominated to the metropolitan see of Birmingham as its seventh archbishop and ordained to the episcopate in St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham, on 25 March 1982. As archbishop, he was assiduous in visiting parishes and schools and oversaw the renovation of St Chad's cathedral and the fabric of the diocesan seminary at Oscott. The two achievements of which he was particularly proud were the develoment of the Maryvale Institute as an international centre of distance learning and the influx of married former Anglican clergymen into the presbyterate of the diocese. He also took a great interest in the fate of Vietnamese refugees and of the churches in the former Soviet bloc. He was Chairman of the Committee for European Affairs of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales and a member of COMECE [Commission des Episcopats de la Communauté Européenne]. He retired on his seventieth birthday, 27 June 1999, moving later that year to Horsham in Sussex, and led an active retirement, being especially busy with work connected with the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. He died on 3 November 2007 and, following his funeral Mass in St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham, was buried at St Mary's College, Oscott. For an assessment of his archiepiscopate, see the obituary by Dr Judith Champ in the 'Archdiocese of Birmingham Directory 2009' and the obituaries at the time of his death in MCM/A/18/1.

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