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Hundreds attend Funeral Mass for Bruce Kent

  • Jo Siedlecka

St Mellitus Church in Tollington Park, north London was packed yesterday for the Funeral Mass of legendary peace campaigner Bruce Kent, who died last month just before his 93rd birthday. The celebrant was the Archbishop of Liverpool, Most Rev Malcolm McMahon, who is President of Pax Christi England and Wales.

Alongside family, friends and parishioners, faith leaders attending the service included Mohammed Kozbar from Finsbury Park Mosque, who Bruce worked with on many community and interfaith projects, and Rev Nagase from the Buddhist Peace Pagoda at Battersea, a regular participant at the Pax Christi Nagasaki Day memorial event which begins each year in Westminster Cathedral. Former war broadcast reporter and MP Martin Bell, local MP Jeremy Corbyn and composer Bernadette Farrell joined members of Pax Christi, Christian CND, the National Justice and Peace Network, priests and religious. Some mourners had come from Belgium and Ireland - among them a man who attributed to Bruce's intervention his release in the 1980s from a foreign prison where he was facing execution.

After welcoming those present and many more around the world watching on line, parish priest Fr Chinedo Udo said: "Bruce understood his place in the world, as a man of peace, as a man of justice, as a man of love in action. If there were more Bruces - the world will be a better place. So Bruce we love you deep down in our hearts."

Members of his family placed items symbolising Bruce's life on his coffin - a chalice given the day of his ordination as a priest, a "well-thumbed" copy of the Psalms, a list of prisoners that he wrote to and his copy of the United Nations Charter.

In her appreciation at the beginning of the service, Bruce's widow Valerie Flessati outlined his life and career, speaking of his "strong sense of mission," saying "he didn't see himself as a rebel but shaped his life according to the moral teaching of the Church." In Bruce's view, "people needed compassion more than rules from the Church." Valerie highlighted his love of walking, particularly his 1988 trek of 1000 miles from Warsaw to Brussels (NATO) calling for a peaceful nuclear-free Europe, and his love of creation.

"His optimism and energy gave people hope," Valerie said. She received warm applause when she concluded with: "what a man; what a voice; what a friend, what a lot of love."

In his homily, Archbishop Malcolm said: "Retiring from active ministry' is a misnomer in Bruce's case." He said Bruce went on to become "more active than ever, a better preacher, a better disciple and a better priest, who built the peace of Christ." The reference was to Bruce's decision in February 1987 to leave his ministry as a priest with Westminster Diocese in order to focus on peace activism, particularly nuclear disarmament.

"He was always loved and respected within the Catholic Church," said the archbishop. Right up until his death on 8 June, Bruce played leading roles in CND, Pax Christi, Movement for the Abolition of War, the International Peace Bureau and Progressing Prisoners Maintaining Innocence.

Bidding prayers recalled victims of war and "all who take risks for peace." Prisoners, refugees, health workers and young environmentalists were all remembered.

The music, led by parish musician Percy Aggett and singer Patricia Hammond, included Bruce's favourite hymn, 'In bread we bring you Lord' and the peace hymn, 'For the healing of the nations.'

A reception was held in the church hall after the Mass. As Bruce's coffin was carried out of the church, members of the Buddhist community in Battersea quietly chanted and drummed. Bruce was taken to the leafy East Finchley cemetery for burial.

LINKS

Watch a video of the funeral on Youtube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-KWIkUmd0I

Text: Archbishop Malcolm McMahon at Funeral of Bruce Kent: www.indcatholicnews.com/news/45039

Tributes and other information can be found here: http://bruce-kent.com/

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