‘He served the Archdiocese unfailingly and the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales’
Bishop Vincent Malone, Bishop of Abora and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Liverpool, died on the morning of Monday 18 May in the Royal Liverpool Hospital after testing positive for coronavirus. Bishop Malone was 88 years old and in the 65th year of his priesthood.
Following his death tributes came from all walks of life and from all parts of the world. Pope Francis sent a message of condolence to Archbishop Malcolm McMahon who himself said: ‘Bishop Vincent had retired from his role as auxiliary bishop when I arrived in Liverpool six years ago, but he was still a very active member of the Archbishop’s Council and a trustee of the Archdiocese. No report or set of accounts was safe from Bishop Vin’s eye for detail. As a young priest he had trained as a teacher of Mathematics, and numbers and diagrams certainly contributed to his view of the world or at least of the Church, but it would be very wrong to portray him as a person who was unfeeling.
‘His mild and polite manner found its fulfilment in his ministry as a priest and bishop which was characterised by unfailing kindness and respect to all those he met and served. Bishop Vincent told me that he enjoyed being an auxiliary bishop because it kept him close to people. He made a massive contribution to the life of the local Church and city as dean at the Metropolitan Cathedral, chaplain to Liverpool University and chair of numerous committees including the early ecumenical bodies which laid the foundations for the harmony we enjoy between churches and people of faith in these days. In life, Bishop Vincent Malone was at peace with God and his creation; may he now be welcomed by his Lord into a place of peace and light.’
Cardinal Vincent Nichols remembered the time when he served with the then Monsignor Malone at Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral. 'As a fairly young priest I was sent to live for a few years at the Clergy House of the Metropolitan Cathedral in Liverpool,’ he said. ‘Monsignor Vincent Malone was in charge. Above all I remember his endless patience to get right every aspect of the work of the Cathedral; his unfailing courtesy with every person he met, even those who were occasionally very difficult; his kindness to those in need who came to the door. He had a gentle rebuke for those who acted precipitously and a readiness himself to make amends. He offered warm hospitality without ever being ostentatious and a quiet, witty conversation. He was a lovely man to be with.
‘He served the Archdiocese unfailingly and the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, especially in our ministry in universities, in which he had considerable experience. We will miss him. We pray that he is received by our Heavenly Father with loving mercy and that he can look down upon us with an affectionate smile as he sees us still struggle to do our best. His service, his struggle is over. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.'
The Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes, tweeted, ‘Giving thanks to God for the life of RC Bishop Vincent Malone, auxiliary-emeritus of Liverpool, who has died. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.’
The Liverpool Mayor, Joe Anderson, said that Bishop Malone was ‘an unsung hero, who did a lot of good work behind the scenes … a practising Catholic myself, I found him to be a lovely, humble, gentle man, who was very well respected by people of all faiths and none.’
Vincent Malone was born in Liverpool on 11 September 1931. He attended the parish school at St Oswald's, Old Swan, his home parish, to which he held a lifelong loyalty and affection. From 1942 to 1949 he attended St Francis Xavier College which was then run by the Jesuits in Salisbury Street, Liverpool, and would become a regular figure at the annual school reunions throughout his life.
In 1949 at the age of 18 he went to St Joseph's College, Upholland, to study for the priesthood. He later recalled an inauspicious start to his college career: ‘Being inappropriately dressed can be very embarrassing. Picture the scene: everyone else seems to know that formal attire should be worn, but you have arrived in informal wear. My first day at Upholland left me in a dilemma of that kind. I had been sent the wrong list of clothes to bring, which didn’t take account of the fact that as a first-year philosopher – I’d never even heard of them! – I should wear clerical dress. So I arrived without the necessary cassock – worn all day, every day by Philosophy students at that time – clerical collar, surplice and biretta. This looked like a problem not just for a few hours on that first day, but for every day as far as the eye could see. There was no going home or shopping for the next four months!’
To his relief another student was able to lend him the formal attire. ‘My blushes were spared,’ he recounted. ‘But to those in the know there was an added irony: my uncle was one of the main suppliers of clerical attire to the college and could have fixed me up with everything I needed – if only we had known!’ He successfully completed his studies and was ordained back in his home parish of St Oswald on 18 September 1955. He had many fond memories of his time at Upholland and attended the St Joseph’s Society reunions faithfully every year, missing only one – in 2019.
His first appointment in 1955 was to be chaplain at Notre Dame Convent and College in Mount Pleasant, Liverpool. He served there until 1959 but formed lifelong friendships, attending the year group student reunions until his death. While there he studied at Liverpool University and was awarded a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in 1959. From Cambridge University he obtained in 1960 a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) and in 1964 a Diploma in Education (Dip Ed). In 1967 he became a Fellow of the College of Preceptors (FcollP).
From 1960 to 1961 he served as assistant priest at St Anne's, Overbury Street, Liverpool and was a part-time teacher at St Francis Xavier's Preparatory School which was at that time also the Cathedral Choir School. Then for the next 10 years (1961–71) he served on the staff of Cardinal Allen Grammar School for Boys, first as an assistant teacher and eventually as head of the department for Religious Studies.
In 1971 a new phase of his life began when Archbishop George Andrew Beck appointed him as Catholic chaplain to the University of Liverpool based in the Chaplaincy on Mount Pleasant. He instantly took to university life together with the community of students who lived at the Chaplaincy building. Spirituality and social events mixed and the barn dances which he used to organise were legendary according to former student Frank Kennedy. ‘I am one of many former Liverpool University students who have kept in touch with Vin – as he always introduced himself and was happy to be known by us – since our youth in the 1970s,’ he recalled.
‘He spent eight years as university chaplain, hosting "cheese and jam butty lunches", hilarious social nights that plenty of non-Catholic friends enjoyed, and sharing the Chaplaincy with three or four students every year. I was one of the lucky ones, in my final year enjoying the dry sense of humour Vin applied to everything from hosting Archbishop [Derek] Worlock to trying to catch the Chaplaincy mouse.
‘When Vin moved on to the Cathedral as “Monsignor Vincent”, he compiled a list which became a booklet and later a digital document of well over a hundred of our names and contact details, and added the name and birth year of every baby he heard about. This he christened "D'you 'member Thingy?". He sent a letter – later email – to us all every Christmas, always setting us a “who said what?” quiz to tease out if we knew each other as well as he knew us. We never did.
‘Naturally, we wanted to get together again and so began a series of sizeable five-yearly reunion gatherings – first at the former Chaplaincy in Brownlow Hill and later based in and around the Cathedral. These ran from 1982 to 2017, and I was looking forward to Vin's reminder next year about keeping a weekend free in 2022. The only rule was that there had to be some barn dancing – and the record for taking part in the most dances was undoubtedly held by our former chaplain himself.
‘A great administrator and devout priest he undoubtedly was, but hundreds of former students will remember Vin Malone as one of their kindest and most thoughtful friends, with his unexpectedly playful humour and dancing feet.’
In 1979 Archbishop Worlock appointed him as administrator of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King and the following year he was appointed honorary prelate (Monsignor) and canon of the Metropolitan Chapter. There were many significant events during his years at the Cathedral. In 1980 the National Pastoral Congress took place and in 1982 the Papal visit. In 1989 as the city of Liverpool came together in grief following the Hillsborough disaster, a Mass was organised at the Cathedral, although such were the crowds that as Archbishop Worlock celebrated the Mass inside, Monsignor Malone presided over an outdoor Mass on the Cathedral piazza with the help of a megaphone loaned to him by the police.
In 1980 he was elected chairman of convocation of Liverpool University, the first churchman to hold that post. It was during his three-year term of office that the university celebrated its centenary in 1981. In that same year, he became a member of the Archbishop's Council and a trustee of the Archdiocese, in which capacity he served until 2019. He also served as chairman of the Archdiocesan Council of Priests.
His years at the Cathedral saw the growth of ecumenical cooperation through the partnership of Archbishop Worlock and Bishop David Sheppard, and it was a cause to which he was totally committed. He served as deputy speaker of the Merseyside and Region Churches’ Ecumenical Assembly and as chairman of its standing committee, bringing to that work the same courtesy, kindness and intellect which were hallmarks of his service in the Roman Catholic Church.
Former ecumenical officer Rev Martyn Newman said of him: ‘He was a man for whom I had a great deal of admiration and respect as well as affection, and through him I managed to penetrate some of the curious and nuanced language of “Vaticanese”, which helped me to interpret Catholics and Protestants to each other. He was firm in both faith and order, never divisively in my experience, but always looking for opportunities to be inclusive. And behind a sometimes impassive exterior, there was always a sense of humour trying to get out. I shall be remembering him with great thanksgiving.’ In a sign of gratitude for his work for unity, the Easter Candle was lit and prayers said for him in York Minster following his death.
He was appointed as northern regional coordinator for the 1982 Papal visit, a major task but ideally suited to his organisational ability. He readily acknowledged that his assiduous attention to detail could occasionally cause frustration for others, but by his own admission, he met his match at a meeting to organise the Liverpool leg of the visit when a very long discussion ensued over whether to issue first-aiders with Savlon antiseptic cream or Savlon antiseptic liquid.
On the day of the visit as the Pope arrived at the Metropolitan Cathedral, Archbishop Worlock introduced Monsignor Malone as the man ‘who has made all the arrangements for your visit to the north of England’ and then, as Bishop Malone later recalled, ‘the Pope put his hand on my shoulder and said, “It is a big job”’. It is ironic that Bishop Malone died on the day which would have been Pope St John Paul II’s 100th birthday.
He was ordained as Titular Bishop of Abora and Auxiliary Bishop of Liverpool by Archbishop Worlock in the Metropolitan Cathedral on 3 July 1989. An Auxiliary Bishop is assigned a titular see as they assist a diocesan bishop but do not have a diocese of their own. Bishop Malone was given Abora, an ancient diocese in Tunisia. When such appointments are made, the bishop-elect normally finds out about the appointment a week or so before the announcement is made; in Bishop Malone’s case he had to wait five weeks for the announcement because Archbishop Worlock had just left to visit Liverpool priests serving in Latin America when the news came through from Rome. In true fidelity Bishop Malone did not break the confidentiality. On his appointment he moved from the Cathedral and returned to live at his family home in Old Swan.
For the next 17 years he worked tirelessly as Auxiliary Bishop to Archbishop Worlock and then Archbishop Patrick Kelly. Along with many parish visitations and confirmations he also took on the task of liaising with the Archbishop on clergy appointments and dealing with many of the challenges facing the Church at the beginning of the 21st century. His interest and background in education served him well when he was appointed chairman of the Bishops' Conference Committee for Higher Education.
He also served as the episcopal liaison for the National Board of Catholic Women, and that group’s former president, Pearl Clarke, paid tribute when saying: ‘As episcopal liaison to the NBCW, Bishop Malone exemplified his faith, hope and charity by his welcome support and gentle encouragement. The news of his death heralds an irreplaceable loss to the Church in England and Wales. We are positive he will be embraced by Christ for his humility which belied his intellectual prowess. May we celebrate his lifetime’s achievement knowing he is in the presence of God.’
Bishop Malone retired as Auxiliary Bishop in 2006 on reaching the age of 75 but continued to serve as Vicar General and a trustee of the Archdiocese until 2019. Although he no longer conducted parish visitations, he continued with confirmations and assisted with supply work. He also served as chaplain to the Sisters of St Joseph of the Apparition, celebrating Mass daily at their convent close to his home. He was a regular visitor to the Archdiocesan offices for meetings and on most days for lunch, becoming a great friend and source of encouragement to Archdiocesan staff.
On Monday 1 June Archbishop Malcolm celebrated Mass for Bishop Malone in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of the Metropolitan Cathedral. The Mass was livestreamed so that his family and many friends could join in. Bishop Malone’s sister, Mary, who lived in America for many years, was also remembered as she had died on 28 May at the age of 92, just ten days after her brother.
In his homily Archbishop Malcolm recalled the help which Bishop Vincent had given him on his arrival in Liverpool: ‘When I came to the diocese, Bishop Vin was still very active as Vicar General, even though he had retired as an Auxiliary Bishop some seven years before. It was hard to see what he had actually retired from doing. He helped me understand the workings of the diocese, with a chart of course, but he also offered a listening ear and a kind word, as a brother bishop – a true brother to me, whom I had known for nearly 14 years, but I only saw the true man as he helped me settle in. He was always supportive, never critical of any of the brethren but would help me understand them with kindness – a true teacher and friend.’
Due to the restrictions caused by the current pandemic Bishop Malone’s funeral was a graveside service prior to interment in the family grave at Allerton cemetery on Tuesday 2 June. On a warm, sunlit morning a very small group of priests, family and friends observed social distancing as Bishop Vincent was laid to rest with his parents. The service was led by his brother Auxiliary Bishop, Tom Williams, and Archbishop Malcolm led prayers and gave the blessing. Bishop Tom read from St Matthew’s account of the Ascension which concluded with the following words: ‘Go therefore, make disciples of all the nations, baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you, and know that I am with you always, yes, to the end of time.’