Feline farewell: London cathedral hosts memorial service for resident stray cat

Feline farewell: London cathedral hosts memorial service for resident stray cat
A memorial service was held in London for Doorkins Magnificat, a cat who had been a fixture at Southwark Cathedral for a dozen years. (Bob D'Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk)

A hungry stray that began frequenting a London cathedral 12 years ago was given a solemn feline farewell Wednesday.

Doorkins Magnificat, a beloved cat who made the cathedral her home, died Sept. 30, People reported. The tabby earned celebrity status during her years at Southwark Cathedral, meeting Queen Elizabeth II, starring in a children’s book and having a presence on social media with her own accounts, The Guardian reported.

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After the cat’s death, Andrew Nunn, the dean of the cathedral, hosted a service of thanksgiving, which was live-streamed on Wednesday.

“She was enormously popular and had a massive Twitter following -- and was also the focus of a lot of people’s visits to the cathedral,” Nunn told CNN. “When she died the response was huge, and we knew we had to do something -- there was no way in which we could just ignore the fact -- and why would you? We loved her, and she gave a lot to our life. It felt entirely appropriate.”

The cat began visiting the cathedral in 2008 between Christmas and New Year’s Day and waited for food.

“After being fed each morning for a few days, this cat decided (as cats do) that the cathedral is where she wished to live and has been with us ever since," the Southwark website states.

Doorkins, as she became known, became part of the church’s community, nestling in a space next to a warm pipe beneath the cathedral’s chancel, or on a cushion in the consistory court, People reported.

In August 2017 Doorkins “published” her first book, “Doorkins the Cathedral Cat,” which gave readers a tour of the Gothic-style church and a week in the life of the cat.

Doorkins' health declined shortly after the book’s publication. She had suffered kidney problems, loss of hearing and eventually lost her vision, People reported. Following a stroke last month, she died in the arms of Paul Timms, the head verger, at his home, according to the Southwark website.

The cat’s remains were cremated and she was laid to rest in the church’s courtyard, The Guardian reported.

“It was an unusual occasion,” Nunn told the congregation during the memorial service. “In more normal times, we often host memorial services for the great and the good. But I don’t think there’s ever been a service for a cat.”

Not everyone took kindly to the service.

“Is this a joke?” tweeted Phillip North, the bishop of Burnley. “I do hope so. If not it’s grossly insensitive to bereaved families and those ministering to them in the NW under the regional coronavirus restrictions.”

Nunn told CNN he had “no regrets” about conducting the service.

“There’s such a lot of emotion around at the moment, and sometimes, something like that can just release it for people," Nunn said. “It was heartwarming as well as emotional.”

Nunn also said Doorkins was a positive influence to the church congregation.

“I got used to the fact that she had more Twitter followers than I did," said Nunn, who has 5,285 followers while Doorkins had 6,278. “And that she brought more people to church than I will ever do.”