Funeral Mass for the late Monsignor Denis Faul, PP St Colmcille’s Church, Carrickmore, Co Tyrone
23 JUNE 2006
FUNERAL MASS FOR THE LATE MONSIGNOR DENIS FAUL, PP
ST COLMCILLE’S CHURCH, CARRICKMORE, CO TYRONE
The funeral Mass for Monsignor Denis Faul takes place today in Carrickmore, Co. Tyrone
at 12:00 noon. The Chief Celebrant and preacher will be Bishop Gerard Clifford, Auxiliary
Bishop of Armagh. Also present will be Cardinal Cahal B. Daly, Archbishop Emeritus of
Armagh; Dr Patrick Walsh, Bishop of Down and Connor; and Dr Edward Day, Bishop Emeritus
Before his departure yesterday to fulfil pastoral engagements in Nigeria, Archbishop
Seán Brady, the Primate of All Ireland, officiated at the removal of remains from the
Bon Secours Hospital, Dublin. Also present were the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop
Giuseppe Lazzarotto and Mr Michael McDowell TD, Minister for Justice.
The text of Bishop Clifford’s homily at the funeral Mass today follows. Burial will take
place after the funeral Mass in adjoining cemetery.
Homily by Bishop Gerard Clifford, Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh
The readings we just listened to set the scene for our funeral Mass today. We gather to
pray for and remember the late Monsignor Denis Faul. Today we grieve at the death of one
we loved so much: a priest of our diocese for 50 years, a man who was an inspiration and
an ideal to us all. We remember Fr Denis Faul greatly, we remember his commitment and
dedication as a priest of our diocese, and we remember one who was in many ways a prophet
of our time during the 30 years of what we call the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland.
On behalf of Archbishop Brady, who is currently in Africa, on behalf of Cardinal Daly and
the priests and people of the Archdiocese of Armagh, I extend our deepest sympathies to
his sister Brigid, his brothers Dr Peter, Stephen, Terence, his brothers-in-law, his
sisters-in-law, nephews, nieces, his housekeeper Margaret, and his many relatives and
The Gospel of the Beatitudes (Mt. 5: 1-12) which we have just listened to sets before us
the ideal for Christian living. In many ways it sums up the life and work of the late Denis
‘How happy are the gentle’ they shall have the earth as their heritage’.
Denis Faul was first and foremost a good priest, faithful to his ministry, but more than
that, faithful to the Church. The core of his life was influenced by his commitment to
his priesthood and to the Church. That was the inspiration of his life. Out of that grew
his involvement in justice, peace, reconciliation and education. It was the driving force
in his life. That was the compelling force that directed his involvement in civil rights
and in campaigning for the rights of others. His mother’s words to him in his youth left
an indelible mark on his life. She said: ‘Remember there is nobody better than you, although
there will be some as good as you are’.
Several tributes have been paid to Denis Faul’s involvement in working for peace and
reconciliation for more than 30 years, the seeds of which, of course, were sown in his
upbringing in Louth, in the close family bonds, in the home where respect, trust, and
care for others were cornerstone. Denis was from his earliest days a young man of principle.
I am told that even on his Confirmation day he declared he wanted to become a priest. He
had two uncles who were priests on his mother’s side of the family. He knew what priesthood
was about and he wanted that more than anything else. That brought him to St Mary’s College,
Dundalk, to St Patrick’s College, Armagh, St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth and later to
the Gregorian University in Rome. All his life he encouraged young men to join the priesthood
and it is interesting that over the years the two parishes of Louth and Carrickmore have
given an unprecedented number of young men to the diocese and to the religious orders.
After studies Denis Faul was appointed to St Patrick’s Boys’ Academy, Dungannon. He would
spend the next 40 years of his life in education, both as teacher and principal. He believed
that education was the key to liberating people from repression, unemployment, discrimination
and injustice. He was an ardent advocate of education for all. He worked endlessly to provide
the very best opportunities for all regardless of ability and he strived more than anything
to make available a system of education for those who sought an academic career. Education
was about formation, spiritual, intellectual, academic, and religious. His great boast was
that for a generation he helped young men develop their character and helped them take their
place in society. Underpinning all of that was his commitment to Catholic education. He was
to the forefront in promoting Catholic education. He believed that was the right and
obligation of every Catholic. And he did his utmost to create an awareness of that among
the Catholic community.
‘Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right; they shall be satisfied’.
A hunger for justice, for peace, for reconciliation was the driving force behind the life
of Denis Faul. Over thirty years he was a prophetic voice for the Catholic community in
Northern Ireland. He was the voice for the voiceless, the friend of the repressed. He saw
the injustices in society. He was involved in the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s; he
condemned violence from whatever quarter. He spoke out courageously about the abuse of
internees and collaborated with many other, particularly with Monsignor Raymond Murray,
and the late Fr Brian Brady and Sr Sarah Clarke in forming an ad hoc network of support
for those in distress. This group of social campaigners exercised every sinew in defence
of those oppressed and produced a stream of publications to document human rights abuse
and individual violations of civil and political rights. Fr. Faul and Fr Murray’s booklet,
‘The Birmingham Framework,’ was seminal in bringing attention nationally and internationally
to the miscarriage of justices on behalf of the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and
others Irish prisoners they believed to have been wrongly imprisoned.
In 1981 he played a pivotal role in the brokering of an end to the hunger strikes.
He fought fearlessly on behalf of victims of violence no matter what the source. He is
remembered as the priest who exposed the injustice of violence. He condemned murder
repeatedly. In particular he was trenchant in his condemnation of the murder of Tom
Oliver in Cooley in 1991. He saw the threat of violence extending to the Republic of
Ireland and he was forthright in his condemnation.
Later he addressed the plight of those exiled from the community by various groups and
forces. In particular he campaigned on behalf of the ‘disappeared’, those who had been
abducted and whose bodies had never been found. His plea even on his death- bed was
addressed to those who had any knowledge or hint of where these bodies had been placed.
His words were clear: ‘Anyone who has knowledge of the unburied bodies bears the
responsibility for that’.
But Fr Faul was more than a campaigner. He was a fried and support to anyone in grief. He
said Mass on different occasions for the ‘disappeared’ – an annual Mass held in Armagh
to remember those who had disappeared. He supported families and relatives, and I know
that was greatly appreciated.
‘Blessed those who mourn, they shall be comforted.’
Denis Faul knew what it was to mourn for those suffering. His name was a household name
in many families throughout Northern Ireland. He published his name and telephone number
for people to make contact with him when needed. It was a phone number that was well known.
He walked behind many coffins, grieving with people and sat patiently with families torn
apart by the death of a loved one. Today many people are grateful to him for all of that.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers they shall be called sons of God.’
For some thirty years Denis Faul was the voice for justice in society. He stood up for
what be believed in. He was relentless in the pursuit of justice and human rights. Denis
Faul can justly be called a ‘son’ of God.
I return to the Denis Faul we knew in the Archdiocese of Armagh. He was a deeply spiritual
man, faithful to his calling as a priest. He enjoyed the company of priests. He was always
the student, an avid reader. His voluminous library bears witness to that. He was always
the scholar, interested in everything to do with the Irish language and culture. ‘Bhí grá
as cuimse aige sa Ghaeilge. Gach uile bhliain chaith se seal mar séiplíneach sa Ghaeltacht,
go mór mór i dTeileann, i dTír Conaill, agus bhain se an taithneamh as na laethanna a chaith
sé ansin, bliain i ndiaidh bliana’.
On the 13th of June last he had planned to be in Maynooth for the celebrations with his
classmates of 50 years of priesthood. He even got a new suit for the occasion, but sadly
he was not to make the gathering. His Armagh classmates, Fr John Bradley and Fr Tommy
McGeough, were there to answer the many queries of friends and classmates. On Maynooth
Reunion Day some 40 Golden Jubilarians gathered to celebrate. Each one signed a card
wishing Monsignor Faul well and assuring him of their prayers. He was to die a week
Today we mourn one of the great icons of priesthood in our diocese. We mourn a man committed
to his priesthood and to his work for people. He was one of the great priests of our time.
Ní bheidh a leitheid ann arís. May he rest in peace.
Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)