The British Member of Parliament who was stabbed to death at a public meeting last week was a committed Catholic who, in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s words, had an “outstanding record of passing laws to help the most vulnerable.”
That help included fighting to restrict abortion and assisted suicide.
Conservative Member of Parliament Sir David Amess was stabbed October 15 during a meeting with constituents at a church in Leigh-on-Sea, east of London.
Prime Minister Johnson called Amess “one of the kindest people” in politics.
According to the BBC, Sir David, who represented Southend West, was holding a meeting where voters can discuss concerns with their MP.
“Essex Police Chief Constable BJ Harrington said they had received reports of a stabbing shortly after 12:05 BST and within minutes, officers had found Sir David with multiple injuries,” the BBC said. “Police and paramedics ‘worked extremely hard’ to save him but he died at the scene, Mr. Harrington said.”
Police arrested Ali Harbi Ali, a 25-year-old British man of Somali heritage.
Amess, 69, had been an MP since 1983 and was married with five children. A Roman Catholic, he was known politically as a social conservative and as a prominent campaigner against abortion and on animal welfare issues.
Fr. Jeff Woolnough, parish priest at nearby St. Peter’s Catholic Church, told the BBC that the slain parliamentarian “was a great, great man, a good Catholic and a friend to all.”
“He’s died doing that, that’s the remarkable thing,” said Fr. Woolnough. “He’s died serving the people.”
Fr. Woolnough told the BBC that he rushed to Belfairs Methodist Church, where the stabbing took place, when he heard that Amess had been knifed. He said he asked a police officer if he could enter and anoint Amess, but was unable to go inside, as it was crime scene.
Woolnough said that he respected the restriction. Instead, he prayed the rosary outside with a parishioner.
During a Mass that evening, the priest said that Amess “carried that great east London spirit of having no fear and being able to talk to people and the level they’re at. Not all politicians, I would say, are good at that.”
Tributes pour in
Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, in a statement, said that Amess “carried out his vocation as a Catholic in public life with generosity and integrity. He served in Parliament for four decades and was respected by all political parties across the House. His untimely death is a great loss.”
According to Catholic News Agency, Cardinal Nichols said that Amess was “instrumental” in the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Parliament in September 2010, during the pope’s visit to the UK. The cardinal said that Amess had in 2006 established an All-party Parliamentary Group for relations with the Holy See, a group including people from different faiths and beliefs, CNA said.
“He fostered this mutually respectful relationship through meetings with Cardinal [Pietro] Parolin, the Pope’s Secretary of State, and with other Catholic leaders. This contribution is both esteemed and will be sorely missed,” the cardinal said.
Right to Life UK spokeswoman Catherine Robinson said that Amess championed initiatives to “introduce more protections for unborn babies and more support for women facing crisis pregnancies.”
Amess voted for stricter gestational limits on abortions, against the imposition of abortion on Northern Ireland, and against the legalization of assisted suicide.
The British Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) said that Amess was a “staunch defender of the dignity of every human life.”
“Let us remember Sir David and all that he did in trying to restore a culture of life in the United Kingdom,” SPUC said in a statement.
The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales’ agency for education added that Amess was an “outstanding Catholic MP and a fervent supporter of Catholic education.”