The following is an extract from the Opening Address at the National Assembly of Forward in Faith by National Secretary Fr Geoffrey Kirk

Mr Chairman, I have heard complaints in the past that the Forward in Faith Assembly is orchestrated to the last word – not unlike the five yearly gathering of the Chinese Communist Party which is presently in session. But not so. And to prove it I want to introduce an item, un-orchestrated, un-announced and entirely mine own.

When I first began to observe the deliberations of the General Synod, there was one man on whose words I hung. A master of the English language, he was also the undoubted star of the Catholic Group at a time when there were other giants in the land. He was an architect of the Synodical system, who sought to teach it, in the days of its youth, the ways of wisdom and self-restraint. He was unfailingly courteous, always courageous, and above all else clear, precise and to-the-point.

He eloquently defended the position of those who opposed the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate over many years. More recently he served as one of the external assessors who offered trenchant but constructive criticism to the authors of Consecrated Women?

I refer, of course, Chairman, to Mr Oswald Clarke.

This Assembly and this movement owe more to him than I could ever express. I hope you will not think it out of order for me at this early stage in the Assembly’s deliberations to propose a heartfelt vote of thanks to him as his ninetieth birthday approaches. I cannot move it myself – but you could. And can I suggest at the same time that we determine to give him a small gift as a sign of our affection and respect? Something elegant in glass – something Irish and eighteenth century would do the trick – and, of course, something equally elegant to put in it?

He is my hero of the faith; but he should be hailed as the hero of us all.