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Tributes paid following death of much loved Derry bishop

By Sarah Mac Donald - 09 August, 2016

“Bishop Edward was an iconic figure in the civic and Church life of Ireland, north and south. He truly lived and proclaimed the Good News of Jesus Christ and, in doing so, became a role model for all of us.”

Bishop Edward Daly and Archbishop Eamon Martin. Pic courtesy: the Irish News.com

Bishop Edward Daly and Archbishop Eamon Martin. Pic courtesy: the Irish News.com

President Michael D. Higgins and Archbishop Eamon Martin led tributes to Bishop Edward Daly of Derry who died on Monday morning aged 82.

In a statement, President Higgins said the Bishop Emeritus of Derry would be remembered for his “peaceful, compassionate, humanitarian and courageous actions during the appalling events of Bloody Sunday”.

He said it was but one part of the great contribution that was his life of service to the citizens of Derry, which also included his leadership in the task of regenerating Derry and his work with the hospice movement in the later part of his life.

“His sense of compassion was delivered into the lives of the people he served with a practical and courageous commitment,” President Higgins said.

The Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin said it was with great sadness that he had learned of the death of “our beloved Bishop Edward Daly”.

He highlighted that Bishop Daly had ordained him to the priesthood in 1987.

“Bishop Edward was an iconic figure in the civic and Church life of Ireland, north and south. He truly lived and proclaimed the Good News of Jesus Christ and, in doing so, became a role model for all of us,” he said.

Appointed as Bishop of Derry in 1974, he said he was a tireless worker for the people, priests and religious of the diocese.

“My first memory of Bishop Edward is when I was a thirteen year old boy, walking to the bottom of our street in Pennyburn, to greet the new bishop. He was just forty years of age and came across as warm, youthful and interested in us, his people.”

He said Bishop Daly was “a gentle shepherd whose immense contribution to the spiritual and moral well-being of the people of Derry diocese during a troubled time shall never be forgotten”.

“He had a sensitive heart and generous disposition; ever caring to the sick, the bereaved, and to victims on all sides of the Troubles.”

His untiring advocacy for the Birmingham Six, the victims of Bloody Sunday and for the families of those murdered by paramilitaries earned him respect from some, suspicion from others.

“He walked with his people in their struggles and joys and was most at home out in the streets, parishes and communities of his diocese,” he said.

Archbishop Martin said Bishop Edward would also be remembered as a fearless peace-builder – as exemplified by his courage on Bloody Sunday in Derry – and as a holy and humble faith leader.

His bravery was also apparent in his lived conviction that violence from any side during the Troubles was futile and could never be morally justified.

Of his personal friendship with Bishop James Mehaffey, the Primate said it sent a quiet, yet powerful message of harmony and bridge building across the community divide.

He helped organise the papal visit of Pope Saint John Paul II to Ireland in 1979 and was a consistent voice on social justice and peace issues.

Former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese paid tribute to Bishop Daly’s love for the vulnerable especially those coping with disability is legendary.

“In a divided community his strong commitment to ecumenism helped all of us transcend the gravitational pull of history’s hatreds and find our common humanity,” Mrs McAleese said.

“I never knew him to be anything other than heartfelt, warm and welcoming.  He was a man I loved to meet for he affirmed everyone he met, delighted in life and as Gumilyov says in Gondola he exemplified the Irish capacity for a mercy capable of forgiving Judas himself.”

News of Bishop Daly’s death was announced this morning by Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry.

In a statement, Bishop McKeown said it was “with deepest regret” that he announced the death  of Bishop Edward Daly.

Bishop Daly was born in Belleek, Co Fermanagh in the Diocese of Clogher, on 5 December 1933.

After primary education in Belleek, he attended second level education in Saint Columb’s College, Derry.

From there, he was sent, as a student for the Diocese of Derry, to prepare for priesthood in the Pontifical Irish College, Rome.

He was ordained on 16 March 1957, a priest of the Diocese of Derry.

His first appointment was as a curate in Castlederg, Co Tyrone.

In 1962, he was appointed as a Curate in Saint Eugene’s Cathedral, Derry. In 1973, he was appointed Religious Advisor to RTÉ, Dublin.

In 1974, he was ordained Bishop of Derry, where he served until serious illness compelled him to retire in 1994.

In retirement, despite poor health, until earlier this year Bishop Daly continued to serve as a dedicated Chaplain to the Foyle Hospice, Derry, a ministry in which he touched the lives of so many people.  He also served as Diocesan Archivist.

In his statement, Bishop McKeown said “Bishop Daly served, without any concern for himself, throughout the traumatic years of the Troubles, finding his ministry shaped by the experience of witnessing violence and its effects; through this dreadful period he always strove to preach the Gospel of the peace of Christ.”

“Bishop Daly provided an example of priestly ministry which was exemplary, inspired by service of God and the people he encountered.”

“His ministry was characterised by his deep love of the people of this diocese, his dedicated visitation of parishes and his constant availability to others.”

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