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With sadness we announce the death early this morning, Tuesday 14th May, of Fr Francis Wahle. Fr Francis died peacefully at University College Hospital in London on the Feast of St Matthias, Apostle.

Fr Francis was born in Vienna, Austria in August 1929 and ordained to the priesthood at Palazzola, Rome July 1965 and had been retired since 2004 and until quite recently provided supply ministry in the diocese. Condolences are extended to Fr Francis’ family and friends, and to parishioners and colleagues in the parishes, and at Allen Hall, where he served as a priest of the diocese.

Fr Francis’ mortal remains will be received at Our Lady of the Rosary, 211 Old Marylebone Road, Marylebone NW1 5QT on Monday 3rd June at 5pm, followed by a Requiem Mass at 7.30pm. Bishop Paul McAleenan will preside.

On Tuesday 4th June the Funeral Mass will be in the same church at 11.30am with the Cardinal presiding and Mgr Philip Whitmore giving the homily. Cremation will follow at Golders Green Crematorium.

The Requiem Mass on 3 June at 7.30pm and the Funeral Mass will be live streamed at this link

We pray for the repose of the soul of Fr Francis:

Almighty and eternal God,
hear our prayers for your son, Fr Francis
whom you have called from this world to yourself.
Grant him light, happiness and peace.
Let him pass in safety through the gates of death, and live for ever with all your saints in the light you promised to Abraham and to all his descendants in faith.
Guard him from all harm
and on that great day of resurrection and reward raise him up with all your saints.
Pardon his sins and give him eternal life in your kingdom.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.


The Entrance Antiphon of today’s Mass:

It was not you who chose me, says the Lord,
but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit,
fruit that will last, alleluia.

May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


At the age of 94 years and eight months Fr Francis was called by God to heaven, the God who had called him to service as a priest, service that Fr Francis gave with generosity of spirit and cheerfulness of heart for 58 years. His was an extraordinary life. In 2020 he wrote his autobiography, ‘My Story’, published by The Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR). The book, available online, is compelling as Fr Francis describes his life as a child in Vienna, the Nazi invasion of March 1938, his escape to Britain, his education, studies and working life, his vocation to the priesthood, his priestly ministry and his activities in retirement. His autobiography begins, “I was born in Vienna in August 1929 to a middle-class family. My father, Karl Wahle, was a judge and my mother, Hedwig Brunner, an insurance actuary…” Towards the end of the book he offers his musings and insights, the fruit of his experiences and reflection and, no doubt, his prayer. Along with fascinating photographs of people, letters and documents the book has many gems of wisdom written by Fr Francis: “The refugees of today don’t need me to say anything to them. They know what they need. They want security, shelter, the possibility of work. But they’re not getting it. They’re not allowed in. I don’t think it’s the refugees who need my advice, rather the politicians. There are groups which help child refugees from Syria, for example. That’s what I support. If someone is drowning, you don’t give them advice”.

Born in Vienna on 14 August 1929 and Baptised eight days later, Francis had a sister, Anne. He became a priest, she a nun taking the name Sr Hedwig as a Sister of Our Lady of Zion. Sr Hedwig died in August 2001. Both Francis and Anne made gifts of themselves to God and to the Church out of gratitude for God’s goodness to them. They were two of nearly 10,000 children who escaped the Nazis in Europe, evacuated to safety in the Kindertransport programme that took them to Britain before the start of the Second World War. The Jews faced persecution and worse as the Nazis gained power. Although Baptised as Catholic, Francis and Anne were legally Jewish because they had four Jewish grandparents. Karl Wahle had become a Catholic before Francis was born. Nazi law in Austria meant that Karl could no longer keep his job and Francis had to leave his Catholic school. As Nazi terror spread people feared for their lives and the safety of their children. The Wahle children arrived in Britain in January 1939, Francis nine years of age and Anne two years younger. He was taken to a home run by the Catholic Committee for Refugees, she to a convent. Francis was Confirmed in July 1939 at SS Francis and Anthony, Crawley. Francis learned English and went to Hodder, a Jesuit preparatory school.

Francis’ secondary education was at the Jesuit-run Stonyhurst College in Lancashire from 1940-1947. He then came to London, to University College, to study for a B.Sc. in economics, graduating in 1950. He then took employment as an articled clerk and in 1955 he joined the John Lewis Partnership to work as assistant to the chief accountant until 1959. He lived in Swiss Cottage and attended Mass and parish activities in Farm Street. But his vocation to the priesthood was to shorten his promising career. The Parish Priest gave a positive recommendation in support of Francis’ application to the Diocese, describing him as “…a live wire as a Catholic and a man who prays regularly”. Accepted as a student for the Diocese of Westminster, Francis went to the Venerable English College in Rome from 1959-1966. As a seminarian he was described by the Rector as “…able, industrious and most methodical…an exemplary member of the community”. He took part in College concerts “with commendable spirit and humour”. He was ordained to the diaconate at the Church of the Sacred Heart in the Piazza Navona, Rome on 9 May 1965 and to the priesthood on 11 July 1965 in the college chapel at Palazzola by Cardinal Heard. On his return to London Fr Francis took up his appointment as a chaplain at Westminster Cathedral where he served from 1966-1974. For most of this time he was chaplain to the Westminster Hospital. Hospital chaplaincy continued when Fr Francis took up his next appointment as Assistant Priest at St Aidan, East Acton with Hammersmith Hospital in the parish. After two years Fr Francis was given a new appointment, as resident Spiritual Director at Allen Hall, the seminary of the Diocese of Westminster, from 1976-1981. His next appointment was Parish Priest at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St George, Enfield. He remained in Enfield until 1992 when he moved to Our Lady, Queen of Heaven in Queensway where he remained until 2004 when he retired at the age of 75, the usual retirement age for priests. 

Retirement did not mean inactivity for Fr Francis! He made known his availability and willingness to provide supply ministry to support priests and parishes with his characteristic generosity and cheerfulness. He had much experience and wisdom to share. Alongside 49 years of pastoral ministry in parishes and hospitals and at Allen Hall, Fr Francis had been a member of the London Society of Jews and Christians, an industrial chaplain, a member of the Catholic Evidence Guild, the St Francis Leprosy Guild and the diocesan Committee for the Welfare of Sick and Retired Priests. He had also served on the Council of the Venerable English College. But there was another service that Fr Francis gave, a personal ministry to alienated Catholics, people who felt hurt or marginalised by the Church. He was keen to support ‘lapsed Catholics’ and to accompany them. He said, “We have a duty to reach out and search for those who feel offended by the Church, its teachings, its practices or its representatives”. His telephone number and email address were widely circulated. His personal warmth and empathy, his penetrating yet twinkling eyes and his non-threatening approach to people coupled with his gentle sense of humour equipped him well for this ministry. He knew what it was and how it felt to be rejected and excluded, intimidated and persecuted.

In retirement Fr Francis lived in a family-owned flat in Chiltern Court on Baker Street. He was well known to fellow residents and to the hall porters. In ‘My Story’ he wrote, “I’m basically the chaplain for my whole block (there are 130 flats here!) because neighbours know I’m a priest, so if somebody dies, it’s nicer to have somebody you know to do the funeral than a stranger. I’ve officiated at several funerals for non-Catholics as well”.

In the year that Fr Francis turned 90 years of age Cardinal Vincent wrote to him: “I especially thank God for all the many blessings He has given to His people through your priestly ministry. As priests, we are but instruments in the Lord’s hands and we are grateful whenever the Lord chooses us for His good purposes”. In his nineties Fr Francis continued to be a familiar sight in the church of St James, Spanish Place. Although frail and in need of assistance he concelebrated at the Chrism Mass in Westminster Cathedral on Tuesday in Holy Week 2024 at the age of 94. On 27 April he was admitted to University College Hospital and was visited by Cardinal Vincent the following day. Friends stayed with Fr Francis, one during the day, another during the night, aware that Fr Francis would not be returning to Chiltern Court. He had been chosen by the Lord for His good purposes for service as a priest and he was ready to go to God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Father of Mercies. 

Fr Francis touched the lives of countless Catholics - practising and lapsed – other Christians, Jews, Muslims and people of no religious affiliation because of his humanity, humility and his love of people. He knew how blessed he was by the God of mercy and compassion, and he wanted to share such blessings with others, indeed with everyone he met in person or through his writing.

May the gentle soul of Fr Francis rest in peace and rise in glory.