Vatican News staff writer
Britain united in shock and grief on Friday over the brutal killing of a long-serving conservative MP who was stabbed to death during a regular meeting with his constituents in Essex. 69-year-old David Amess was attacked in a Methodist church in Leigh-on-Sea, a seaside city about 62 kilometers east of London. Local police arrested a 25-year-old man at the scene and today officially declared the murder as a terrorist incident. The suspect is a British citizen of Somali origins and was known to British authorities as a person at risk of radicalisation. His identity hasn’t yet been disclosed.
Amess, who leaves a wife and five children, had been an MP since 1983, making him one of the longest-serving politicians in the House of Commons. A prominent Catholic, as well as a convinced Brexiteer, he was a well-liked figure with a reputation for working hard for his constituents.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, head of the Anglican Communion, have joined politicians from across the political spectrum and other world leaders expressing shock and sorrow at the news.
“The tragic death of David Amess creates a painful loss in so many lives. I pray for his family and friends, those reeling from shock at this time. I pray for his constituents all those who worked with him in his political career”, Cardinal Nichols wrote in his statement released on Friday. Recalling that Sir Amess was “respected by all political parties across the House, the English Catholic Primate further noted that the “horrific attack” is “an attack on our democratic process and traditions”.
Cardinal Nichols also recalled David Amess’ long-standing engagement as a Catholic in the political arena. It was he who, in 2006, established the All-party Parliamentary Group for relations with Holy See Group, a Group including people from different faiths and beliefs. Over the years he led several parliamentary visits to Rome. He also played a major role in the historic visit of Pope Benedict to Parliament in 2010 and in the return visit by HMG representatives to Rome in the following year. “This contribution is both esteemed and will be sorely missed”, Cardinal Nichols said.
On his part, Anglican Primate Justin Welby said the killing was a blow to "everyone who desires a peaceful and flourishing democracy" , noting that Amess was a “devout Roman Catholic whose deep faith fuelled his sense of justice”. “We are richer for his life, and we are all the poorer for his untimely death,” he added
Amess is the second British MP to be killed in the past decade. In 2016, a week before the country's divisive Brexit referendum, another Labour MP Joe Cox was fatally stabbed and shot to death by an extremist in her constituency. The last incident has renewed concerns in Britain about politicians’ security, as bitter polarization of the country's politics grows. British politicians generally are not given police protection when they meet their constituents.