On a day filled with solemnity and memory, a gathering of clergy and faithful alike took place at the cathedral, to bid farewell and honour Archbishop Peter Smith. Led by Bishop Peter Collins, with Bishop Emeritus Alan Hopes in attendance, the Requiem Mass served as a moment to remember the archbishop’s life, his achievements, and his unwavering dedication to his faith.
As the celebrant of the Mass, Bishop Peter Collins delivered a homily that encapsulated Archbishop Smith’s journey and his virtues. This homily, poignant and deeply respectful, was a testament to his remarkable life and service.
Bishop Collins began, “I particularly remember my predecessors… We recollect, in memory and in our prayer, Peter Smith, the second Bishop of the Diocese of East Anglia. He was a priest of Southwark, a man of the South Bank, one might say.”
He continued, speaking about Archbishop Smith’s educational journey, “He eventually became a priest of the Archdiocese of Southwark… He first went to Exeter University to read law. He excelled… Upon leaving Exeter, he came back to his beloved London… He laboured there a while before finally following the call of a vocation to priesthood.”
The bishop further recounted the archbishop’s dedication and service, “He was sent to Rome to study Canon Law… He returned to the Archdiocese of Southwark, working within the Tribunal and then being appointed to teach Canon law at St. John’s Seminary… He was at home there, and it would tax him to think that St John’s is no longer functioning as a seminary. But its heritage carries over to Allen Hall today.”
Recalling their shared experiences, he said: “As you know, he would then move from being Rector to becoming bishop of this diocese… He was always engaging and entertaining. But it was obvious, his gifts gave rise to a clear mind… He became entwined with your lives here in this place. Wherever he went, he is remembered with deep affection and appreciation.”
The bishop then expounded on Archbishop Smith’s role in safeguarding structures for the Catholic Church, “Whilst he was Bishop of East Anglia… he served on the Nolan Commission… Always kindly, though eliciting what was needed… So, he came to Cardiff where we had experienced some difficulty… He came to a somewhat humbler cathedral than this… That Cathedral of Saint David is dear to me, having served there so long, but even I must say, how wondrous it is to be here.”
He continued, reflecting on Archbishop Smith’s influence: “Bishop Peter did not literally sit on this chair, which was installed, of course, by Bishop Alan. But he occupied the chair of this diocese, ably, humbly. And we give thanks to God for his ministry here… He did not sit on this chair, nor is his body interred in this cathedral church. But he is embedded in this place.”
The bishop then touched upon the archbishop’s life in London, “Having served in Cardiff, he was eventually called back to his hometown of London. South of the river. It was a joy to him… He served in many ways… He was the voice of the church, appearing on television often… We give thanks for that particular ministry.”
Finally, the bishop concluded his homily by recalling the late archbishop’s humility and his love for small pleasures of life, “He was first and last a humble man… He was a true disciple of the Lord… We will all remember his culinary skills. Richmond sausages were his favourite… So much to record… And today, we give thanks for him and we pray for him… That then was Peter Smith, whom we remember this day. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”
As the Mass concluded, it was not the end of the gathering. The clergy came together once more for a lunch, sharing in their mutual memories of Archbishop Smith. In remembering his love for the garden and his simple culinary pleasures, they kept his memory alive in their shared stories and fond recollections.
The Requiem Mass for Archbishop Smith was not just a solemn occasion but also a celebration of a life lived in faith, love, and service to the Church. As Bishop Collins beautifully encapsulated in his homily, Archbishop Smith was a humble and dedicated servant of the Church, a man deeply loved by those who knew him, and a figure of significant influence in the Catholic Church. His memory continues to live on, a beacon of unwavering faith and humble service.
Pictured above is Archbishop Peter Smith. Image taken from www.cbcew.org.uk.