Bishop Victor Guazzelli has died

 Bishop Victor Guazzelli, an Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Westminster, died yesterday, at the age of 84. The much-loved bishop, described by colleague Bishop George Stack as the 'people's bishop' - was well known for his passion for social justice and gift of identifying with the lives of ordinary people. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, President of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales and Archbishop of Westminster, said in tribute: "The Diocese of Westminster mourns the death of a much-loved priest and bishop. Bishop Victor Guazzelli was held in the highest esteem and affection by everyone with whom he came into contact. "His life as pastor was moulded by the Second Vatican Council which he strove to put into effect in all aspects of his ministry. Above all, Bishop Victor was a man of deep compassion. People from far and wide came to him for counsel, comfort and understanding. Everyone in the Diocese of Westminster and far beyond will give thanks to God for his life, his example and his ministry. May he rest in peace." Archbishop Patrick Kelly, Vice-President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales and Archbishop of Liverpool, paid tribute to Bishop Victor. Archbishop Kelly said: "A phrase frequently used in the life of the Church in recent years is 'option for the poor'. It seems to me that by adding one word to that phrase we can appreciate and give thanks for the life and service of Victor Guazzelli. It then becomes 'joyful option for the poor'. His commitment to those in need both in our own country and farther afield was marked both by seriousness of purpose together with a joyful hope. Thousands were blest by this, for example, in the annual HCPT pilgrimages to Lourdes. "In a very different part of the world, he took into his heart concern for the bishop, priests and people of East Timor in some of their darkest days. And the breadth of his concern found expression in his commitment as a president to the advocacy and witness of Pax Christi. All of us who were associated with him as brother bishops were gladdened by his encouragement, his enthusiasm and simplicity. May he rest in the joy and peace of our risen Lord." A spokesman for the Secretariat of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales said: "News of Bishop Victor's death is a great sadness to the staff at the Bishops' Conference. He was a wonderfully kind and warm-hearted person much loved by everyone here." Clare Dixon, Head of Latin America and Caribbean section of CAFOD, for which Bishop Victor was a member of the advisory committee for 15 years, said: "He gave us great support for our work in Latin American and particularly our social justice work. He was a great friend of the people in Latin America and especially in Brazil. "Bishops Victor was inspired by the example of the Latin American Church and the investment in the poorest and most excluded sections of societies. He implemented a programme in East London based on what he had seen in Latin America, asking people to make a preferential option for the poor - to work for social change and justice. His presence in CAFOD was always full of great good humour and fun. He is a great loss." Bishop Victor was born in 1920 in London's East End. The son of Italian immigrants, he began studying for the priesthood at the English College in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1935. His passion for social justice came to the fore in 1976 when, as an auxiliary bishop of the Westminster diocese, he was charged with looking after the East London Boroughs. During the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s when the East End was dealing with industrial action, redevelopment and new tides of immigration, Bishop Guazzelli was able to speak with authority to workers, community leaders and the London Docklands Development Corporation. Recognising the need for a new style of ministry amongst priests emphasising "mission" rather than "maintenance", he gathered around himself a group of diocesan priests, affectionately known as "The God Squad", who would conduct six-week intensive missions and programmes of lay formation in parishes. His first-hand experience of the social and demographic changes taking place in the East End made him ideally qualified as chairman of the Bishops' Committee for Faith and Cultures. In 1975, he became President of Pax Christi, the Gospel-based international movement for peace. This necessarily involved him in sometimes unpopular and often controversial causes. Pax Christi paid tribute to his easy rapport in international groups and his moral courage on the subject of war and disarmament. "We have appreciated his willingness to do the right thing and to 'stick his neck out' when necessary he identified with ordinary people and attempted to make justice a priority for the East London area." In 1993, as the Bishops' representative on the Apostleship of the Sea, he took a leading role in reinvigorating and reconstructing this important outreach of the Church to seafarers throughout the world by means of a series of 'Port Chaplaincies'. He twice visited Bishop Bello in East Timor at the height of the civil conflict. Long before the injustices experienced by the people of East Timor were recognised by the West, Guazzelli was lobbying government and Church agencies on the human rights which were being violated there. He offered outstanding personal and pastoral support to the isolated and virtually unknown Bishop Bello, whose extraordinary defence of human rights would be recognised with the award of the Nobel Prize. As a member of the Latin American Desk of the Catholic Relief Agency CAFOD, he demonstrated an enduring commitment to Latin America. At different times, Cardinal Arns and Archbishop Helder Camara came to see him at his home in East London. His compassion and availability to the sick and the vulnerable was evident in the outstanding commitment he made to the Handicapped Children's Pilgrimage Trust to Lourdes over 25 years. Bishop Stack said: "Amidst all his gifts and achievements, Victor Guazzelli will be remembered most as a 'People's Bishop'. He was also recognised as a Bishop who had extraordinary compassion for priests. His life was based on Gospel values which expressed themselves in dedication, courage, optimism and prayers." Source: CCS

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