Tributes paid to the former Bishop of Clifton
Tributes have been paid to the former Bishop of Clifton, the Rt Rev Mervyn Alexander, who died on Saturday 14 August 2010 at St Angela’s Home in Clifton, Bristol.
The Bishop of Clifton, the Rt Rev Declan Lang, paid tribute to his predecessor, who served the diocese held between 1974 and 2001, describing him as “a good and holy man”.
He added, “In his years as Bishop of Clifton, Bishop Mervyn guided the diocese through many changes and developments which originated from the Second Vatican Council. There were joys and tensions but in all of this Bishop Mervyn remained a loving pastor who had a deep love for God and people.”
Bishop Lang added, “In the Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Mervyn worked generously particularly in the area of dialogue with other faiths and people of no belief.”
On his retirement, Bishop Alexander returned as parish priest to St Joseph’s, Weston-super-Mare, where he ministered until 2008.
Clifton Diocese covers the West of England and includes Bristol, and the counties of Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire. There are 107 parishes serving a Catholic population of 190,000.
Mervyn Alban Alexander was born on 29 June 1925 in Highbury, London, the eldest son of William and Grace Alexander. The family later moved from London to Salisbury, Wiltshire.
He began his schooling at the Bishop Wordsworth Grammar School in Salisbury and later went to Prior Park College, Bath.
The future bishop trained for the priesthood at the Venerable English College, Rome and was ordained a priest on 18 July 1948 in the Leonine College. He continued his theological studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, and obtained his doctorate in divinity in 1951.
Returning to England he was appointed assistant priest in the Cathedral parish, Clifton, Bristol, where he served from 1951 to l964.
During this time he opened the University Catholic Chaplaincy on Queens Road as a study and residential centre for students. The Chaplaincy continues to serve students today.
In 1967 he was appointed as Parish Priest of Our Lady of Lourdes, Weston-super-Mare, until he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop in the Clifton Diocese on 25 April 1972. On 20 December 1974, he was made Bishop of Clifton.
In addition to his work in the diocese he held a number of national posts.
He was a member of the Vatican Secretariat for Non-Believers (1973 to 1983), and Chairman of the National Commission for Non-Believers (1973 to 1983), Vice-Chairman of the Liturgy Commission (1977 to 1983), and Episcopal President of the Catholic Child Welfare Council (1976 to 1983).
His interest in ecumenism was reflected in his role as Co-Chairman of the Roman Catholic / Methodist Committee (1976 to 1980), and his appointment as Co-Chairman of the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1977.
In 1982 he was Chairman of the committee concerned with spiritual preparation for the visit of Pope John Paul II to England and Wales.
He was Chairman of the Committee for Art and Architecture (1983 to 1999), as well as Episcopal Adviser to Marriage Encounter from 1980. He presided at a Diocesan Synod which took place from 1987 to 1988.
In Clifton Diocese Bishop Alexander encouraged the growth of pastoral collaboration between clergy and laity.
Under his leadership the diocese became one of the first to set up a Diocesan Pastoral Council and was the first Catholic diocese to appoint a lay person as Financial Administrator.
Having served as Chaplain to the University of Bristol he saw the need to encourage young people to become involved in the life of the Church. He also maintained the links between the diocese and South America and visited diocesan priests working there a number of times.
His personal hobbies and interests included reading, sport, in particular golf, music and walking.
In February 2001, Bishop Alexander was recognised by the University of Bristol for his contribution to the life of the city and was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Laws. The commendation speech was given by the then Bishop of Bristol Right Reverend Barry Rogerson.
He was succeeded as Bishop of Clifton by Bishop Declan Lang on the 28 March 2001.
On his retirement as Bishop he returned to Weston-super-Mare, as Parish Priest of St Joseph’s, a role he fulfilled until 2008. He then moved to live at St Angela’s Convent in Clifton, Bristol.
The leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols said he was saddened by the news of the death of Bishop Alexander.
“He was also an important member of the Bishops’ Conference for so many years, contributing with great wisdom and wit. Indeed, many will remember his wonderful sense of humour which emerged not only in conversation but in messages and greetings. He had a real joy in the Lord”, Archbishop Nichols said.