A FORMER headmaster at Ampleforth college and Benedictine monk of Ampleforth Abbey has passed away aged 79.

Father (Fr) Leo Chamberlain died in the monastery infirmary at Ampleforth Abbey on November 23.

He was born in Tonbridge in August 1940 and educated at Gilling Castle and Ampleforth College. He joined the monastic community in September 1961 and was ordained priest in July 1967.

Throughout the 1980s Fr Leo launched a number of initiatives providing support for persecuted Christians in Eastern Europe. He also set up the first major international conference on Believers, Society & State in Central and Eastern Europe hosted by Ampleforth.

Over forty years, Fr Leo worked at Ampleforth College in a variety of roles, including housemaster and senior history master. He became acting headmaster in 1992 before taking on the role full time in January 1993 until December 2003.

This 11-year period was one of major change as the school responded to the conditions of the time and prepared for the 21st century with a comprehensive £20m redevelopment programme.

Fr Leo also guided the school’s move towards co-education, as girls were introduced into the sixth form in 2001.

From 1992-2000 he was also a member of the Bishops’ Conference Advisory Committee on Europe.

Fr Leo retired from the school in December 2003 at the age of 63, and in September 2004 was appointed master of St Benet’s Hall, a permanent private hall in the University of Oxford. In the three years in post, he led the administrative reform of the hall and co-operation with other Catholic institutions in Oxford.

In 2008, Fr Leo was appointed Cathedral Prior of Gloucester Cathedral, a title dating from pre-Reformation times.

In April of 2008, Fr Leo was also appointed parish priest of St John’s, Easingwold. In a 10-year period, he was responsible for the extensive refurbishment of the church and priory.

A funeral mass will be held for Fr Leo on December 6 at 11:30am in Ampleforth Abbey Church, followed by burial in the Abbey crypt.