By Sarah Mac Donald - 01 October, 2019
Pope Francis on Monday announced the retirement of Bishop Eamonn Walsh, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Dublin, who tendered his resignation having reached 75.
Bishop Walsh had been a bishop for 29 years. He was appointed to the role in Dublin by Pope John Paul II in March 1990.
Originally from Celbridge, Co Kildare, Bishop Walsh qualified as a barrister. He studied for the priesthood at Clonliffe College and at the Lateran University in Rome, receiving a BA in Philosophy and a Licence in Theology.
He was ordained a priest for Dublin in April 1969.
Later he served as a secretary to Archbishop Kevin McNamara of Dublin and he also acted as Dean of Clonliffe College from 1977 to 1985.
Following Pope John Paul’s appointment of him as an auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese of Dublin, his episcopal ordination was presided over in April 1990 by the then Archbishop, Dr Desmond Connell.
Responding to Monday’s announcement, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin paid tribute to Bishop Walsh’s service as a bishop, saying he was “especially committed to the area of priestly formation and the care of priests, as Dean of Holy Cross College, as Vicar for Priests, and as Chairman of the Clerical Fund Society.”
He also served as a prison chaplain in Mountjoy and in Arbour Hill prisons for a number of years and continued his concern and advocacy for prisoners as liaison bishop with the prison authorities.
At episcopal conference level, Dr Walsh led the Irish Bishops Drugs Initiative and he was Area Bishop for the Deaneries of Blessington, South Dublin and Tallaght and a member of the Diocesan Council for Priests for many years.
“At a difficult time, he undertook the task of being Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Ferns,” Archbishop Martin said.
Archbishop Eamon Martin said, “Bishop Walsh combined energy in the service of the Church with a real pastoral instinct for those on the margins of society. His contributions to debates at Conference level were matched by concrete actions on behalf of prisoners, those suffering from addictions and mothers who were struggling with crisis in pregnancy.”
Dr Martin added that he was a “valued” Chairman of the Bishops’ Commission for Pastoral Care, a former member of the Communications Council, and President of Cura.
“He was an inspirational founder of the Irish Bishops’ Drugs Initiative which continues to tackle the scourge of alcohol and drug abuse in society,” the Primate said.
He also highlighted that Bishop Walsh was an early member of the team which set up the Bishops’ first Child Protection Office in 2001 and he added, “he has remained committed to building a robust safeguarding culture within the Church in Ireland”.
Between 2002 and 2006, Bishop Walsh administered the Diocese of Ferns following the resignation of Bishop Brendan Comiskey over his mishandling of clerical child sexual abuse.
Dr Walsh worked with the investigation team which produced the Ferns Report in 2005.
In 2009, in the wake of the publication of the Murphy Report into clerical abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin, Bishop Walsh and his fellow auxiliary Bishop Raymond Field announced at Christmas day Masses that they had tendered their resignations to Pope Benedict.
They said they hoped their actions “might help to bring Christ’s peace and reconciliation to the victims and survivors of child sexual abuse”.
Pope Benedict later rejected both bishops’ offer to stand down.