His Eminence 
John Carmel Heenan
Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster
Province Westminster
See Westminster
Enthroned 1963
Reign ended 7 November 1975
Predecessor William Godfrey
Successor George Basil Hume
Ordination 6 July 1930 (Priest)
Consecration 27 January 1951 (Bishop)
Created Cardinal 22 February 1965
Rank Cardinal priest of S. Silvestro in Capite
Other Archbishop of Liverpool 1951-57; Bishop of Leeds 1957-63
Personal details
Born 26 January 1905(1905-01-26)
Ilford, Redbridge
Died 7 November 1975 (aged 70)
London, England
Buried Westminster Cathedral
Nationality [British]
Denomination Roman Catholic Church
Parents James Carmel Heenan and Anne Pilkington

John Carmel Heenan (26 January 1905—7 November 1975) was an English prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Westminster from 1963 until his death, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1965.[1]


Early life and ordination

John Heenan was born in Ilford, Redbridge, as the youngest of the four children of the Irish John and Anne (née Pilkington) Heenan. He auditioned for Westminster Cathedral Choir School at age 9, but Sir Richard Terry rejected him for his "metallic voice".[2] Heenan studied at St. Ignatius College in Stamford Hill, Ushaw College in Durham, and the Venerable English College in Rome before being ordained to the priesthood on 6 July 1930. He then did pastoral work in Brentwood until 1947, at which time he became Superior of the Catholic Missionary Society of England and Wales. In this position, Heenan criticized the United States for being too concerned about communism, and not enough about spiritual matters.[3] By this time he had published a biography (1943) of Arthur Cardinal Hinsley, Archbishop of Westminster, who had recently died.


On 27 January 1951, Heenan was appointed Bishop of Leeds by Pope Pius XII. Heenan received his episcopal consecration on the following 12 March from Archbishop William Godfrey, with Bishops Joseph McCormack and John Petit serving as co-consecrators. Named the sixth Archbishop of Liverpool on 2 May 1957, Heenan was later appointed the eighth Archbishop of Westminster on 2 September 1963. As Archbishop of Westminster, he served as the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

Positions during the Second Vatican Council

A participant of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1963), Heenan showed himself to be of a conservative mind. He opposed Gaudium et Spes, the Council's constitution on the Church in the modern world, saying that it had been "written by clerics with no knowledge of the world."[4] The English prelate also condemned the periti, or theological experts, who sought to change the Church's doctrine on birth control.[5] Moreover, despite the risks to ecumenism, Heenan later supported the canonization of the forty martyrs.[6]


He was created Cardinal priest of S. Silvestro in Capite by Pope Paul VI in the consistory of 22 February 1965. In 1968, Heenan was named President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.

He died from a heart attack in London[7] at age 70, and is buried in Westminster Cathedral, under the twelfth Station of the Cross ("Jesus dies on the Cross").


  • "A church that is half empty is half full."[8]
  • "At home it is not only women and children but also fathers of families and young men who come regularly to mass. If we were to offer them the kind of ceremony we saw yesterday in the Sistine Chapel we would soon be left with a congregation mostly of women and children."[9]


  1. Miranda, Salvador. "John Carmel Heenan". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  2. Diocese of Westminster. Cardinal John Carmel Heenan 11 January 2005
  3. Time Magazine. Dominant Theme 12 June 1950
  4. Time Magazine. The Bravest Schema 30 October 1964
  5. Ibid.
  6. Time Magazine. Furor over Forty 19 January 1970
  7. Time Magazine. [1] 17 November 1975
  8. Time Magazine. Revival in England 9 May 1949
  9. Liturgical Shipwreck TAN Books and Pub. March 1997

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Henry Poskitt
Bishop of Leeds
Succeeded by
George Patrick Dwyer
Preceded by
William Godfrey
Archbishop of Liverpool
Succeeded by
George Andrew Beck
Preceded by
William Godfrey
Archbishop of Westminster
Succeeded by
Basil Hume
Preceded by
Valerio Valeri
Cardinal Priest of S. Silvestro in Capite
Succeeded by
Basil Hume
la:Ioannes Carmelus Heenanno:John Carmel Heenan

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