THE second most senior Catholic prelate in Britain, Cardinal Michael Fitzgerald, was awarded an OBE in this week's New Year’s Honours list.
The 84-year-old’s award was for services to interfaith and inter-Church partnerships — the cardinal was formerly Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
Cardinal Fitzgerald, an acknowledged and highly respected expert on Christian–Muslim relations, served as papal nuncio to Egypt and delegate to the Arab League.
He also headed the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue from 2002 to 2006
The cardinal has held the rank of archbishop since 2002.
At his retirement in 2012, Pope Francis appointed him cardinal on his return to England. However, as he is now over 80, he will have vote in any conclave to elect a new pope.
On his elevation to cardinal he said: “As Pope Paul VI said in his first encyclical ‘Ecclesiam Suam’ the Church has to be in dialogue with all people.
‘It gave different categories, and the second category were those people who believe in God, they don’t have the same faith as us, the Muslims are included in that.
‘So it is part of the Church’s mission to be related to these people.’
He added: “I hope that being a cardinal won’t inhibit other people who perhaps knew me before.
“I don’t want to make a fuss. I want to be simple, I think that Father Francis is a very good model.”
Michael Fitzgerald was born in Walsall in the West Midlands into an Irish Catholic family.