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Oremus and its Predecessors

Oremus first appeared in 1996. Soon it had recorded events such as the death of Cardinal Hume, the installation of his successor, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, and the celebration of the Millennium Jubilee in 2000 AD. Today’s Oremus is the sixth in a series of titles dealing with the life and work of Westminster Cathedral from its earliest days at the start of the 20th century.

First came the Westminster Cathedral Record, selling at 6d a copy from January 1896. Its purpose was to encourage subscriptions to the crucial building fund. There were regular progress reports by the architect, J F Bentley, accompanied by detailed drawings, together with lists of benefactors and their generous donations. Early on, the Duke of Norfolk gave £10,000 (about £500,000 today). Others paid for specific items in the Cathedral - a marble column cost from £50 while £33 bought 10,000 bricks.

From 1899 the Record was included as a supplement to The Tablet, Britain’s enduring Catholic weekly of substance. Although intended as a quarterly, only eleven editions of the Record were published. The last one, in June 1902, included a tribute by Cardinal Vaughan to his architect, John Francis Bentley – recently deceased. As builder of the Cathedral, Cardinal Vaughan, died in June of the following year.

For several years there was no Cathedral magazine. Then came the Cathedral Chronicle, a monthly, available from January 1907 at 2d a copy or 3/- a year, post paid. At 34 pages, with photographs and advertisements, it contained messages from the Archbishop, news of changes at Clergy House, articles on liturgy and reports on the ongoing decoration of the Cathedral, still a mammoth task in those early years, in need of funding by Roman Catholics and well-wishers everywhere.

The Chronicle was published for the next sixty years. It covered the consecration of the Cathedral in 1910 (over a century ago!) and a succession of four Cardinal Archbishops of Westminster. When it started, the Cathedral interior consisted of vast areas of bare brick. By the time it ceased publication, the marble and mosaic seen today was almost all in place.  

The magazine sailed on through the First World War of 1914-18 but was disrupted by the Second World War of 1939-45. The boys of the Choir School were evacuated and the Cathedral closed early each day for the ‘black-out’. Protective scaffolding surrounded the marble columns and baldacchino while bombs blew in windows and scarred the woodwork.

The last edition of the Chronicle was in December 1967. Priced One Shilling (5p) production costs had soared, requiring an annual subsidy from the Cathedral of £600. So it was replaced in January 1968 by the more modest Westminster Cathedral News Sheet, priced 6d., which lasted for only forty editions. In May 1971 the eight-page Westminster Cathedral Journal appeared at the same price, but its life was even shorter than the News Sheet, the last one appearing in December 1973. Although it had increased in price to 10p at the start of 1972, its demise, as with the Chronicle, was due to the need for a major subsidy, which the Cathedral could no longer afford.

In 1974 the Westminster Cathedral Bulletin was born. It was produced fortnightly for four years from October 1979 by members of the Parish Council, and was FREE. Against all the odds the Bulletin not only survived but prospered. In September 1981 it became a monthly, producing special editions for major events like the Pope’s visit to the Britain in 1982. It received a new layout in 1979 and again in 1985 and 1992. Gradually the Bulletin changed from a rather uninspiring typed sheet to a twelve page monthly magazine on art paper, containing articles, interviews, photographs a cartoon (Charlie Chaplain – the priests of the Cathedral are known as Chaplains) and income-generating advertisements to help it to break even. Through the 1990s there was colour for the front cover, and colour photographs as well, particularly for special events, like the historic visit of HM the Queen in 1995.

In 1996 a survey of Bulletin readers affirmed the popularity of the magazine but suggested more photographs, more colour and greater coverage of Cathedral and parish news, suggestions which were incorporated in subsequent issues. It was also felt that the name itself, suggesting lots of news, was inappropriate. Ideas for a new title included the Chronicle, the Tower, and the Bell – even Halo Magazine! But all agreed that something illustrating the special character of the Cathedral was needed. Eventually the new title agreed on was Oremus, The Magazine of Westminster Cathedral which started in 1996. Being Latin for "Let us Pray", Oremus sits well with everyone who comes to Westminster Cathedral and appreciates its deep atmosphere of prayer.

The penultimate editor of the Bulletin was John Browne, now Assistant Head at Ampleforth College.

Recent editors of Oremus have included Fr Richard Andrew and Fr Tim Dean. The production of Oremus each month also depends on an able Managing Editor. Throughout the 1990s this was the redoubtable Joseph Bonner and until her retirement in early 2012, it was Blandine Tugendhat who gave an enormous amount of voluntary time to the Oremus project. The Cathedral can never thank her enough for all that she achieved. Prior to the current Editor, Fr John Scott (who took over in late July 2016), the managzine was edited by Dylan Parry, who also had responsibility for the Cathedral website and social media sites. It was Dylan Parry who decided to make Oremus a free publication in December 2013.

During 2010, the centenary year of the Consecration of Westminster Cathedral, the Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, kindly agreed to be Patron of Oremus, the Magazine of Westminster Cathedral.