February 8th 2016 is the twentieth anniversary of the death of Archbishop Derek Worlock. From 1976 to 1996 he was the highest ranking Catholic churchman in the Archdiocese of Liverpool, which also covers the Isle of Man and parts of Cheshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester.
Worlock, at whose Woolton home Pope John Paul II stayed when he visited the city in 1982, was still in office when he died of lung cancer. He was in Liverpool at a time when the city was faced with the Toxteth Riots and two great tragedies; Heysel and Hillsborough. The 1980s were also a period of severe economic downturn and Worlock worked with his Anglican equivalent, David Sheppard, to deal with the challenges. They co-wrote two books, Better Together and With Hope in Our Hearts, and were jokingly referred to as fish and Chips as they were always together and never out of the papers.
Worlock’s tomb is situated in Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King and he is the only archbishop to be entombed in the main building. His predecessor George Beck’s tomb is underneath in the Lutyens Crypt, built in the 1930s and the only part of what was planned to be the largest church in the world outside of Rome to be completed. Beck died in 1978 and the Chapel of Relics where he is entombed is closed by the Rolling Stone Gate, signifying the stone which was placed over Christ’s tomb. John Heenan, who preceded Beck, is not buried in Liverpool. Having left to become a cardinal in 1963, he is buried in Westminster Cathedral, England’s de facto main Catholic church.
The Chapel of Relics also contains the tomb of two other archbishops; The first is that of Thomas Whiteside, who was elevated from bishop to archbishop in 1911 when Liverpool became an ecclesiastical province. He died in office in 1921 at the age of sixty three. The other is that of Richard Downey, who oversaw the building of the crypt and had envisaged that the ultimate construction would have a great figure of Christ on it that would be seen for many a mile out at sea. He died whilst still in office in 1953, having served for twenty-four years.
At the Liverpool Roman Catholic Cemetery in Ford, Litherland, there are a number of graves of prominent Catholic churchmen from Victorian times. One of those is Liverpool’s second bishop, Alexander Goss, who took up the position in 1856. He studied in Rome and was a Vice-president of St Edward’s College in Everton, where he died suddenly in 1872 at the age of fifty-eight. The college, which is now situated in West Derby, was founded in 1853 by Father James Nugent. He was a pioneer of child welfare, poverty relief and social reform. At a time when only 5% of Catholic children received an education, he also founded a school in Rodney Street as well as the Liverpool Catholic Children’s Protection Society. He was also the first Catholic chaplain to Walton gaol and sat with many a condemned prisoner in their final hours before being hanged. Nugent died at the age of eighty-three in 1905, having suffered a head injury during a fall on a liner returning from America. Like Goss, he is buried at the cemetery in Ford and his legacy lives on in the Nugent Care Society, the present name for the society he founded in 1881.