The man who saved the ecclesiastical treasures from the former Benedictine Abbey in Ramsgate is a former Muslim convert to Catholicism and football club owner from Lancashire, it emerged this week.
Catholic philanthropist Ilyas Khan is a merchant banker and owner of Accrington Stanley Football Club, who converted in his 20s after discovering Hans Urs von Balthasar, the 20th-century Swiss theologian, as well as third-century Christian scholar Origen.
Mr Khan was the principal supporter of the Abbot of Farnborough in his efforts to save the Ramsgate treasures for the Church, among them a monstrance and a silver chalice, after they were put up for auction.
They will now be housed in the Benedictine Farnborough Abbey.
Mr Khan also helps the Christian Heritage Centre Trust, which aims to raise £10 to £15 million for a Catholic Heritage Centre in Stonyhurst, and has the support of Lord Nicholas Windsor, Lord Guthrie and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.
Mr Khan recently spoke to National Catholic Register about his path to Catholicism.
Raised closed to the Ribble Valley in Lancashire, he said his first interest in the Catholic faith came from his Irish Catholic grandmother, who raised him until he was three. He also benefited, he said, from growing up in England’s Catholic heartland.
He said: “There was a library in Netherhall [an Opus Dei house in London] where I started reading theology. That’s where I came across Origen, and… where I was able to study and appreciate St Augustine. Both my parents were still alive at the time, and part of my reticence was my unwillingness to cause them hurt.”
By the time he graduated, he said, he was almost “a closet Catholic”.