Tributes pour in for Haringey 'peace hero' Bruce Kent who has died

Bruce Kent

Peace keeper Bruce Kent - Credit: Lawrence Archer

Tributes have poured in for a Haringey "peace hero" who has died aged 92.

Bruce Kent, who was an active campaigner for nuclear disarmament (CND) and former Roman Catholic priest, died on June 8 following a short illness, his family has said.

Raised in Hampstead Garden Suburb, and living near Finsbury Park, Bruce would have celebrated his 93rd birthday on June 22.

Kent Bruce, CND Vice President, pictured in the City Hall, London at the Global Summit for a nuclear

Kent Bruce, CND Vice President - Credit: PA

At the time of his death Bruce was a vice-president of CND, a vice-president of Pax Christi, and Emeritus President of the Movement for the Abolition of War.

After national service in the Royal Tank Regiment and a law degree at Brasenose College, Oxford, Bruce was ordained a Catholic priest for the Diocese of Westminster in 1958.

Until 1987 he served in several London parishes, including Euston, as secretary to Cardinal Heenan, and as the RC Chaplain to the University of London, before leaving the priesthood.

In a statement the family said: "It was his Christian faith that brought him to reject nuclear weapons as fundamentally immoral because, even without their use, nuclear deterrence itself depends on a willingness to commit mass murder."

Bruce Kent, founder of the CND, speaks to the crowd of anti-nuclear protesters who have gathered out

Bruce Kent, founder of the CND, speaks to the crowd of anti-nuclear protesters who have gathered outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster - Credit: PA

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As a leading spokesperson for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the 1980s, Bruce became well known as a formidable opponent of Margaret Thatcher’s defence policy at a time when public opposition to the acquisition of Trident, and Cruise missiles, was escalating.

"With his warmth and wit, Bruce Kent was a popular speaker with audiences of all ages from primary schools to pensioners’ groups," the statement added. 

He was “always actively concerned about the welfare of prisoners, especially those maintaining their innocence, and prison reform”.

“His commitment to innumerable peace and human rights campaigns over many decades included the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, for the reform of the United Nations, and the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (which came into force in 2021).”

Among his heroes was Franz Jägerstätter, the Austrian farmer who was executed in 1943 for refusing to fight in Hitler’s army.  

Last month, on May 15, Bruce took part in the annual ceremony in Tavistock Square, to honour conscientious objectors throughout the world.

He was an Honorary Fellow of Brasenose College, and in the past year was awarded the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lambeth Cross for Ecumenism.

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC knew Bruce since her student days in the early seventies when he was Catholic Chaplain to London University.

"He was a huge influence on my life and his commitment to peace and human rights was inspirational," she said.

"He wanted a more compassionate and inclusive church and a more decent and just society.

"He lived out his faith in everything he did - for the marginalised and the poor - and he gave his all with such a great sense of fun.

"He was one of the finest human beings I have ever met."

Kent Bruce, CND Vice President, pictured in the City Hall, London at the Global Summit for a nuclear

Kent Bruce, CND Vice President, pictured in the City Hall, London at the Global Summit for a nuclear weapon-free world. - Credit: PA

Malcolm McMahon op, Archbishop of Liverpool, and president of Pax Christi England & Wales, said peacemakers across the world "will be saddened to hear of the death of Bruce Kent who made a lasting contribution to the peace movement".

"His clarity of thought and deep Christian faith brought light and direction to many people wrestling with the complex arguments around war and peace," he said. 

"Personally, I’ll miss him for being a wonderfully warm human being. May he now rest in the peace of Christ to which he dedicated his life."

Paul Rogers, president of the Movement for the Abolition of War, said "Bruce was an utterly determined advocate for peace, and a relentless campaigner against the idiocy of nuclear weapons" for more than 50 years.  

"He never let up and was forever optimistic and inspiring, even at the most difficult of times."

Reiner Braun, executive director of the International Peace Bureau, said: "It is seldom we call someone a ‘peace hero’ because, as peace activists we are generally against such terms.  

"But Bruce was one of these historical peace figures with his deep, lifelong, emotional and argumentative engagement for peace. We are doing everything to continue the work in his spirit."

CND Chair, Kate Hudson and Kent Bruce, CND Vice President, pictured in the City Hall, London at the

CND Chair, Kate Hudson and Kent Bruce, CND Vice President, pictured in the City Hall, at the Global Summit for a nuclear weapon-free world. - Credit: PA

Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said: "Bruce’s razor-sharp intellect, together with his humour, tireless work, intolerance of flannel, and total commitment to his faith and principles, made him a leader of our movement beyond compare. He will be much missed."

Bruce Kent is survived by his wife, Valerie Flessati, his sister Rosemary Meakins, sister-in-law Ruth Kent, and their families.