Sir David Amess: Pope's call to 'reject the ways of violence' as he praises MP's devoted service

You can watch Charlie Frost's piece about the funeral mass held for Sir David here.

The Pope has called on the world to "reject ways of violence" in a special tribute read out at Sir David Amess' funeral mass.

The message from Pope Francis was read in front of 800 mourners at the mass in Westminster Cathedral attended by the late MP's family, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and fellow politicians.

Sir David, a devout Catholic, was stabbed to death while holding a clinic for constituents in October in Southend.

The Pope praised Sir David's years of "devoted public service" and called for mourners' resolve to be strengthened to "combat evil with good" and "build a society of ever greater justice".

Boris Johnson, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and three former prime ministers attended the service in London on Tuesday morning, following a private funeral held in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, on Monday.

Mr Johnson tweeted out a tribute to Sir David after the service.

The fatal stabbing of Sir David during a constituency surgery at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea last month deprived Southend West of its long-standing MP.

As mourners gathered to remember him, the message from the Pope was read by Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, the Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain, to convey "his heartfelt condolences and the assurance of his spiritual closeness to the Amess family".

The special tribute read: “His Holiness recalls with gratitude Sir David’s years of devoted public service guided by his strong Catholic faith and evidenced in his deep concern for the poor and the disadvantaged, his commitment to the defence of God’s gift of life, and his efforts to foster understanding and co-operation with the Holy See in its universal mission."

A photograph of Sir David Amess Credit: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

It continued: "Commending Sir David's soul to the loving mercy of Jesus Christ our Saviour, the Holy Father prays that all who honour his memory will be confirmed in the resolve to reject the ways of violence, to combat evil with good, and to help build a society of ever greater justice, fraternity and solidarity."

Sir David was a regular visitor to the Vatican and carried around a boiled sweet which had been accidentally blessed by the Pope, according to his fellow MP James Duddridge.

Mr Duddridge, Sir David's Conservative neighbour in Rochford and Southend East, recounted to the House of Commons how Sir David found himself in a pickle as the pope walked down a line dispensing papal blessings.

"David, perhaps slightly absent-mindedly... reached into his pocket for a boiled sweet—he had a sore throat. David got his timing wrong and the Pope took the sweet, thinking it was a revered object to be blessed, and blessed the revered object

"And David had to put it in his pocket. It was a holy sweet."

Sir David was well-known for frequently telling the story, said Mr Duddridge.

"When David would tell the anecdote, as he would do many a time... he would again reach into his pocket and say: 'And this is the sweet that was blessed!'"

A photograph of Sir David Amess is carried into Westminster Cathedral ahead of the mass. Credit: PA

Former prime ministers Theresa May, David Cameron and Sir John Major sat side-by-side at the Mass led by Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols.

They were joined in a pew by Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Mr Johnson.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid were among other senior Cabinet members also present.