Bishop Ambrose Weekes
Bishop Ambrose is the reason I am Rector of St Clement’s Philadelphia: it was at my own birthday party in London in January 2003 that he suggested that I might like to be Rector of St Clement’s.
Sounds unlikely, doesn’t it? But it is true: this is where two strands met. First, I was at that time Archdeacon of Italy & Malta for the Church of England and also Vicar-General of the Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe. Bishop Ambrose had been my predecessor in the latter post, and also in that we had both been Dean of Gibraltar. So I had known him for ten or more years.
The second strand was that Bishop Ambrose had been Chaplain of the Fleet & Archdeacon of the Royal Navy (The C of E loves grand titles!) and therefore knew Father Peter Laister, who was a Royal Naval Chaplain for much of his ministry. They became great friends, and when Fr Laister became Rector of St Clement’s, Bishop Ambrose would often visit. On his visits he would often be put to work presiding at Mass from the Throne, and taking confirmations.
So there you have it: he knew me and he knew St Clement’s and he liked us both. So he thought we would do well together. When I eventually accepted the call to St Clement’s, he was the first person to write and congratulate me, knowing very well that he had instigated the whole thing!
Whenever I have been back in London, I have either had Bishop Ambrose to lunch in the Carlton Club or he has entertained me in his club, the Army & Navy. He was a small man but with a fine voice, and we were no sooner through the door of the Club bar than he would boom out to the barman “Two pink gins – Catholic size!”
Now he has gone to join Fr Laister and all his friends and loved ones beyond the grave. I will offer a Requiem Mass for Bishop Ambrose on Wednesday, May 9th at 12.10 p.m. There will be other Requiems in Gibraltar Cathedral and in London, and in St Andrew’s, Tangier, which he loved to visit, just across the water from Gibraltar.
May he rest in peace and rise in glory.