Tributes to Father Patrick Cope

Tributes have been pouring in to Father Patrick Cope, who died on Saturday, 21 October. He was just 58 and had been suffering from cancer since August.

Born in Hull, Fr Pat trained for the priesthood at Ushaw. He was ordained a priest in 1982 in the Diocese of Middlesbrough and served first as an assistant parish priest in York and Thornaby-on-Tees. He later served as the Diocesan Youth Officer for Middlesbrough and then as Secretary to the Committee for Young People in the Catholic Bishops Conference for England and Wales. He then took up service as a chaplain at Deerbolt and Northallerton prisons. Fr Patrick went on to serve as an Advisor to the Chaplaincy HQ at the Ministry of Justice in London, which involves oversight of prison chaplaincies throughout the North East, London and South Central regions. He was also chaplain to the Sisters at Tyburn.

The Venerable Mike Kavanagh, Chaplain General of Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service said: "As a service we are grieving the loss of a visionary and energetic priest who has made a real difference to the wellbeing of prisoners and staff over the course of his priestly ministry. As a member of the Chaplaincy HQ Team Fr Pat showed a deep commitment to both ecumenical and multifaith working. His close working relationship with Monsignor Roger Reader the Catholic Bishops' Prisons Adviser ensured that the needs of Catholic prisoners were met and their chaplains supported.

"In his wider work as a member of the HQ Team, Fr Pat drew on his experience as the RC Chaplain at HMP/YOI Deerbolt and had a special responsibility to visit and support those chaplains, prisons and secure training centres working with young people across the estate. He also had a passion to develop the work of chaplaincy in resettlement and fostered new links with the National Probation Service and the Community Chaplaincy Association to take this forward. Pat also worked more generally to work with prisons and chaplaincies in the North East and latterly in London and the Thames Valley.

"As an HQ Team we will miss his warmth and sense of fun - with another member of the team he always helped to sort out our Christmas social. An especially memorable time was when he arranged for us to visit the convent at Tyburn and meet the Sisters. They were interested in our work as a multifaith team supporting multifaith chaplaincy. For me, a very personal memory was serving for Fr Pat when we were on a course together at St George's Windsor looking at chaplaincy. Fr Pat was enabled to celebrate Mass in a chapel overlooking the main body of the Church where Queen Victoria used to sit when she attended services. It was a very special time when he celebrated Mass - an Anglican Archdeacon serving a Catholic Priest united in friendship."

On 24 July, 2007 Fr Pat celebrated his Silver Jubilee as a priest in a prison chapel. The young offenders with whom Fr Patrick worked, helped with all of the preparations and took a full part in the day's celebration. The visitors included Fr Patrick's mother, Teresa, other family members and friends, and a good number of diocesan and other priests, together with prison staff from Deerbolt and other prisons. The prisoners prepared and served a delicious buffet afterwards, though, of course, with no alcohol being served! Everyone commented how moving the Mass was and how impressed they were with the involvement and behaviour of the young offenders.

In April 2015, Fr Pat was invited to Buckingham Palace in recognition of his role as a prison chaplain and as a fellow of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. During his meeting with the Queen at Buckinham Palace, she asked him to convey her thanks to the Tyburn Nuns after learning that they prayed for her. Fr Pat explained that the nuns had a plaque entitled: 'For the Queen and England' at one of the main altar candles. The Queen "showed great interest", he said, and asked him to "convey her thanks to the nuns for their prayers and her greetings."

Sister Janet Fearns from Redemptorist Publishing worked with Fr Pat on new prayer resources for people in prison last year. She writes: "Fr Pat Cope is someone who is remembered with great affection for his generosity, sense of humour and common sense. His heart was really with people in prison, whether as inmates or as staff. Even when very busy, he gave the impression of having time for people and was eager to offer his help and support. When we were producing Faith Inside: a guide for Catholics in prison, he was really keen to do whatever he could to help and promote the cause."

In August this year, Fr Pat praised a new report from the Ministry of Justice which showed that prisoners who receive visits from a family member are 39 per cent less likely to re-offend. This makes family relationships "the golden thread" in reducing reoffending, improving prisoner wellbeing and keeping the public safe, said the study. Lord Farmer's report noted that although education and employment are "repeatedly cited as mainstream rehabilitation activities in offender management that all prisoners are expected to undertake,", family work should now be seen as "the third leg of the stool that brings stability and structure to prisoners' lives, particularly when they leave prison." Fr Pat said the report's recommendations were very positive, adding that it is the role of churches and parishes to "support families while their loved ones are in custody and when it comes to resettlement," which is often a time when "fractured families" most need help.

Journalist Ellen Teague wrote on Facebook: "Sad news. I remember him speak so movingly about his work with young offenders at an NJPN conference. He described how he found a young man who had committed suicide in his cell. The experience affected him deeply. Fr Pat dedicated himself to making prison conditions better and supporting young people."

Journalist Paul Donovan wrote: "Great guy, did some articles with him - one going round Feltham young offenders. He also came over to speak at Our Lady of Lourdes in Wanstead. We last met at NJPN conference. RIP."

Fr John McGowan wrote: " I knew Paddy, as well called him, from 1976 when we both joined Ushaw College Seminary. He will be missed by the priests in his class; we have been meeting every year since 1983.

Theresa Byrne wrote: "Sad news. I worked with him for a few years at the Bishops Conference. Lovely man. Very down to earth."

Fr Pat's body will be received into the Chapel at Tyburn Convent this evening, Friday 3rd November with a Vigil Service and will remain in the sanctuary until the morning of Monday 6th November when he will be taken to St Georges Cathedral Southwark for a Requiem Mass at 12.30pm. Fr Pat's remains will then be taken to his home diocese of Middlesbrough where a Requiem Mass will be celebrated on 9 November at 12pm at the Sacred Heart Church.

For more details of the funeral rites for Fr Patrick Cope, please see:

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Tags: Fr Patrick Cope, Prison Chaplaincy

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