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Thomas Griffiths

B. June 2, 1791; d. August 12, 1847

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Griffiths, THOMAS, b. in London, June 2, 1791; d. August 12, 1847; the first and only Vicar Apostolic of the London District educated wholly in England. At the age of thirteen he was sent to St. Edmund’s College, Old Hall, where he went through the whole course, and was ordained priest in 1814. Four years later he was chosen as president, at the early age of twenty-seven. He ruled the college with remarkable success for fifteen years, at the end of which time he was appointed coadjutor to Bishop Bramston, Vicar Apostolic of the London District. He was consecrated as Bishop of Olena at St. Edmund’s College, October 28, 1833. Within three years Bishop Bramston died, and Bishop Griffiths succeeded him.

It was a time when great activities, which reached their full development later under Cardinal Wiseman, were already beginning to show themselves. The agitation for a regular hierarchy became more and more pronounced, and as a preliminary measure, in 1840, the four ecclesiastical “districts” into which England had been divided since the reign of James II were sub-divided to form eight, Dr. Griffiths retaining the new London District. Soon after this, the Oxford conversions began: before Dr. Griffiths died, Newman had been a Catholic nearly two years, and many others had followed him into the Church. There was also a revival of Christian art, due to the enthusiasm of Pugin, while the immigration of the Irish, in consequence of the potato famine, necessitated the opening of many new missions. At the same time the growth of the British colonies, many of which had been till lately ruled as part of the London District, brought him into contact with the government. In all these different spheres Dr. Griffiths discharged his duties with great practical ability; but it was thought that he would not have the breadth of view or experience necessary for initiating the new hierarchy, and according to Bishop Ullathorne, this was the reason why its establishment was postponed. He bears witness, however, to the esteem in which Dr. Griffiths was held, and when the latter died, somewhat unexpectedly, in 1847 Ullathorne himself preached the funeral sermon. The body of the deceased prelate was laid temporarily in the vaults of Moorfields Church; but two years later it was removed to St. Edmund’s College, where a new chapel by Pugin was in course of erection, and a special chantry was built to receive the body of Dr. Griffiths, to whose initiative the chapel was due. An oil painting of Dr. Griffiths is at Archbishop‘s House, Westminster; another, more modern, at St. Edmund’s College.

BERNARD WARD


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