At a ceremony in Speaker's House, at the House of Commons, on Wednesday 31 January, Ann Widdecombe was created a Dame of the Order of St Gregory. The papal honour was conferred on her by Pope Benedict XVI for her services to politics and public life. Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, Emeritus Archbishop of Westminster, particularly paid tribute to Ann's work for the unborn and for the sanctity of human life. The former Prime Minister, John Major, attended the ceremony and expressed his delight at the award and said that Ann had the ability to tenaciously fight for her beliefs whilst remaining fiercely loyal to her colleagues and friends, even when she disagreed with them.
Immediately before the ceremony the Cardinal celebrated Mass in Parliament's Crypt Chapel of Our Lady Undercroft. He offered the Mass for the intention of all those who serve in public life. At its conclusion he read a letter from David Cameron in which the Prime Minister said the award was "richly deserved, recognising the tremendous contribution you have made to the public life in our country over so many years." He added that Ann had "every reason to be justifiably proud of this very special award, and indeed of all your achievements over the past decades."
Taking as his texts readings from the Book of Deuteronomy and the Beatitudes Cardinal Cormac told MPs and Peers that they should always take as their lodestar the injunction to "choose life, not death - that both thou and thy seed may live" and to hold fast to Jesus' promise that those who pursue justice, righteousness, peace and mercy could be certain that "this will find its reward in heaven."
Among the concelebrants of the Mass were Dom Christopher Jamieson, former Abbot of Worth and Canon Pat Browne. A reading was given by one of Ann's godchildren and Sarah Teather, the former Children and Families Minister, sang the Psalm. Former colleagues from all parties and from both Houses of Parliament, and members of Ann's family and her staff, attended the Mass and the ceremony.
Source: UK Parliament