Monsignor Graham Leonard RIP

Our Lady of Willesden

Our Lady of Willesden

Monsignor Graham Leonard died yesterday,  6 January,  aged 88. A former  Bishop of London, he was the most senior Anglican clergyman to convert to the Roman Catholic Church.

An outspoken critic of the ordination of women within the Anglican  Communion,  Leonard  left the Church of England to become a Catholic in 1994.

Graham Leonard was educated at Monkton Combe School and Balliol College, Oxford. He was commissioned into the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry during the Second World War, before attending Westcott House, Cambridge. He was ordained deacon in 1947 and priest the following year.

Before becoming the Bishop of Willesden he was the Rector of St Andrew Undershaft with St Mary Axe in the City of London and the Archdeacon of Hampstead. He was appointed the Bishop of Willesden in 1964.

Leonard had three episcopal positions in the Church of England, firstly as the Suffragan Bishop of Willesden in the Diocese of London and later as the Bishop of Truro (1973 to 1981) and the Bishop of London (1981 to 1991). During this last period he was Dean of the Chapel Royal, a Royal Household office, for which he was appointed Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO). He was also Prelate of the Order of the British Empire.

On 23 April 1994, he was conditionally ordained as a priest (but not as a bishop) in the Roman Catholic Church. Although the Catholic Church still does not officially recognise the validity of Anglican ordinations, Leonard's ordination was conditional due to there being "prudent doubt" about the invalidity of his previous ordination in the Church of England.

Leonard claimed that he was not firstly also ordained a deacon and has said the Pope's personal instruction was that he should be ordained immediately to the priesthood 'sub conditione'. He was later appointed a papal chaplain with the title Monsignor and then a prelate of honour by Pope John Paul II on 3 August 2000.

Leonard was brother-in-law to the late academic Michael Swann (Lord Swann of Coln St Denys) and Hugh Swann, a cabinet maker to Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, having married their sister, Priscilla Swann. He and his wife had two sons.

The  Anglican Bishop of London said in a statement:  "As Bishop of Willesden and then after a spell in Cornwall, as Bishop of London for ten years, Graham Leonard served the Diocese with faithfulness and a particular care for its large number of Church Schools.

"He will be mourned by his many friends and colleagues and our hearts go out in sympathy to Priscilla who played such a significant part in Bishop Graham's London ministry".

Fr Stephen Willis, Parish Priest at Willesden, writes: "Ordained in the Church of England in 1990 by Bishop Leonard, it was a joy that he was among those who assisted at my ordination as a Catholic priest in 1996. With a great devotion to Our Lady, he had as Bishop of Willesden done much to promote devotion to the Mother of God under the ancient title of Our Lady of Willesden. It was a joy to welcome Mgr Leonard to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Willesden to preach the May Procession. I know this brought him great satisfaction, with a certain delight that one of 'his men' was now Rector of the Catholic Shrine. Our Lady of Willesden, pray for him, and all who mourn him."

Funeral arrangements will be announced soon.

Share this story