Edward Patey’s legacy to Liverpool


Universe Column for September 17th 2005

by David Alton

The death was recently announced of the Very Reverend Edward Patey. For 18 years he served as the Dean of Liverpool ’s Anglican Cathedral and it was during those years, from 1964 until 1982, that the special Hope Street relationship was forged between the city’s Catholic and Anglican cathedrals.  Dear Patey’s  first task was to finish building his cathedral but he will also always be remembered for building strong ecumenical relationships.

Construction of the cathedral commenced in 1904 after a young Catholic architect, Giles Gilbert-Scott, won the design commission. It says a great deal about that young man of 21 that he could conceive and bring to birth such a colossal undertaking. It also says a lot about the cathedral authorities of the day that they were willing to trust  that young Catholic to execute such a major project.

Gilbert-Scott died in 1960 before the cathedral was completed  and it was only in Dean  Patey’s time that, in 1978, the huge cathedral, with its 331foot tower, was finished. I vividly remember the admiration many of us felt when we first saw the 1500 square feet of stained glass in the Great West Window when the Queen came to the service of final dedication.

There were times when the project of bringing the building work to fruition drove Dean Patey mad. An apocryphal comment was attributed to him: “To be honest, we are a little worried which will be finished first, the cathedral or organised religion,” he is reputed to have said.

Looking back, he needn’t have been worried on either count.

That was underlined in 1982 by the historic  visit of Pope John Paul II to Liverpool Cathedral – the culmination of Dean Patey’s tenure.

The visit  underlined the relationship that had been forged between Archbishop Derek Worlock, Bishop David Sheppard and the Free Churches . It seemed to draw a conclusive line under earlier eras that had been marred by sectarian rivalries and bitterness.

In reading the tributes to Dean Patey it struck me that although some of his projects have been completed new challenges have emerged and that we need some of his spirit in tacking them.

In particular, in the aftermath of the 7th of July London bombings, the focus needs to move to inter-faith understanding.  I think Dean Patey would have been at the fore-front in trying to create a climate of mutual respect and understanding between the great faiths.

Liverpool is perhaps, therefore, a good venue for the “Learning To Live Together” initiative of Liverpool John Mores University – a series of three lunch-time talks over the next three months. On October 17th Sheik Doctor Zaki Badawi, the head of the Muslim College, will give an Islamic perspective; on November 14th, Rabbi Herschel Gluck, the Chairman of the Council for Muslims, Christians and Jews, will speak from the Jewish point of view, and on December 5th Dr.John Newton, will consider the Christian position. Dr.Newton, was Moderator of the Free Church Council and Chairman of the Liverpool District Methodist, during the period of the “Mersey Miracle” and worked closely with the two bishops and Dean Patey. Tickets for the talks  are available from b.mace@livjm.ac.uk (0151 231 3852).

Edward Patey lived to the good age of 90. He published more than 20 books, did fine work for refugees and to promote race relations, and  brought the building of  his cathedral to fruition. But above all, he will be remembered for stimulating respect and tolerance between different Christian traditions. In facing these daunting  new challenges his is a life well worth emulating.