Yesterday Queen Elizabeth II appointed Cardinal Basil Hume, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, to the prestigious Order of Merit.
    Membership in the order, founded in 1902 by Edward VII, is limited in number to the sovereign and 24 others. Appointments are personal gifts from the queen.
    The 76 year old cardinal announced recently that he is in the advanced stages of cancer.
    Of his appointment, he said, ``I would like to think that it is a recognition of the part played by her majesty's loyal Catholic subjects -- laity, clergy and bishops -- in the life of the nation.'' The queen, temporal head of the Church of England, took the very unusual step of attending a vespers service at Westminster Cathedral, Hume's seat, in 1995.
    Other members of the Order of Merit include the queen's husband, Prince Philip; former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; actor Sir John Gielgud and opera star Dame Joan Sutherland.

12:21pm 26/5/99 / AP


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