Homily of the Bishop Gerard Clifford at the Mass for the reception of the remains of Cardinal Cahal Daly

03 Jan 2010

3 January 2010

Homily of the Bishop Gerard Clifford at the Mass for the reception of the remains of Cardinal Cahal Daly

5.30pm on Sunday 3 January 2010 in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh

We gather today to receive the remains of Cardinal Cahal Daly here in Armagh. In many ways the reception of his remains is his coming home to the place where he ministered for six years, where he led the liturgy here on a regular basis and where he endeared himself to the priests and people of the Archdiocese. It is indeed his coming home to finally rest in Armagh, the place he loved so much.

Cahal B Daly was priest, academic, scholar, writer, ecumenist, bishop of three dioceses, Ardagh and Clonmacnois, Down and Connor and Armagh. His was a busy life totally dedicated to his ministry, urbane, incisive in discussion and debate, a spiritual man whose ministry and work flowed out of his obvious own spiritual depths. He was first and foremost a man of prayer, a man of God. That was the power in his life.  It gave direction to his work and was the hallmark of his ministry and life for sixty eight years. It is not easy to bring together the various strands and influences in his life. The most one can do is to pick a few vignettes that show the depth of his faith, the breadth of his scholarship and the sense of his trust in God.

The words of St. John in today’s Gospel about John the Baptist preparing a way for the Lord can aptly be applied to Cahal Daly in his life and work.

“He came as a witness to speak for the light so that everyone might believe through him”. (John 1; 7).

Cahal Daly was at heart a man deeply devoted to his family,supportive, encouraging, interested, always appreciative and always thankful. His annual pilgrimage to Lourdes was a family gathering; a gathering of the priests, religious, and lay people from the Archdiocese but it was also a family moment when family and friends gathered together in support and in prayer.

I believe that Cahal Daly’s ministry as Bishop can be summed up under four broad headings each one coinciding with its distinctive emphasis and focus in his ministry in three dioceses.

‘Second Vatican Council’
Cahal Daly was ordained Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois on 16th July 1967. He had just returned from the Second Vatican Council where he was one of the chosen ‘periti’ or experts available to the Fathers of the Council. He was enthused by the insights of the Council and the ‘aggiornamento’ or call for spiritual renewal that was the hallmark of the Council. Over the three years of the Council many key issues in the life of the Church and in the renewal of the Church were discussed and debated. Those key documents would influence the ministry of Cahal B Daly for the rest of his life. In Ardagh and Clonmacnois he gave inspiration to many religious communities facing new challenges in their ministry and in their work. He drew inspiration from the Council document on the Liturgy and initiated change at parish and diocesan life. In the light of the document from the Council on Education Bishop Daly, as he was at the time, led a renewal of catechetics and Christian formation at national level. More than anything he was enthused with the new challenges presented by the document “Unitatis Redintegratio” (Restoration of Unity) and he lectured throughout Ireland and abroad on the challenges presented to leadership in the Church. Shortly he would move to the Diocese of Down and Connor where the challenges of  peacemaking, ecumenical outreach and of building bridges of friendship and support would find an immediate application.

‘The Troubles’

Bishop Daly was installed bishop of Down and Connor on 17 October 1982. He came to a diocese that had experienced the worst of the so-called ‘troubles’. For the rest of his ministry he would give unparalleled leadership in calling for an end to violence and a commitment to peace and reconciliation. He was unfaltering in his challenge to the men of violence to turn away from violence and to take the way of peace and reconciliation.  As more and more people became the victims of violence, lives being lost, people maimed for life, property destroyed, businesses burnt to the ground, his call was as urgent as it was demanding.


At national level Bishop Daly joined with key leaders in the Protestant Churches to be a witness to reconciliation and peace. With leaders from the Church of Ireland , Methodist and Presbyterian Churches he spearheaded a process of renewal and commitment within the Churches addressing social problems in society and addressing the sources and causes of violence with a mind to working together as Churches for peace, justice and reconciliation.  The Report to the Churches on Violence in Ireland, published in 1977 became the ’vademecum’ for all who were interested in peace.

It took some years, too many years, before people began to listen. Cardinal Daly would have said that the words of Pope John Paul II on 29 September 1979 in Drogheda were a watershed in changing attitudes and in calling for a radical rethink about violence and its effectiveness.  Pope John Paul’s words were unequivocal. He said; “On my knees I beg you to turn away from the paths of violence and to return to the ways of peace”. Relentlessly Cahal Daly continued to work for peace and reconciliation.

‘Child Protection’
Meanwhile lurking in the shadows were the revelations of child sexual abuse in Ireland. This was without doubt one of the great trials of Cardinal Daly’s ministry. The extent of child abuse by priests marked a sad chapter in the history of our country.  It was a time of unmitigated sadness and sorrow for the Cardinal. I believe that is well captured in a portrait of Cardinal Daly hanging in the cloisters of Maynooth College.  He looks distressed and tired. I believe it sums up the awful effect the whole sad story had on his life. But Cardinal Daly was a man of faith. He believed deeply in the power of God to heal and rebuild lives.

As President of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Daly worked tirelessly to ensure that programmes and policies would be put in place. In April 1994 a committee was set up to prepare a report on Child Sexual Abuse in Ireland. The Report was completed and published in 1996 under the title of ‘Child Sexual Abuse: framework for a Church Response’ (commonly known as the Green Book).  These were the guidelines which informed the management of child protection at diocesan and national level.

At all times throughout his life his own intuition and scholarship made him aware of the road to follow.

Some twenty years ago when he came to Armagh as Archbishop he began a programme of building parish pastoral councils and even as far back as the beginning of the 1990’s he set up a Diocesan Pastoral Council. Today in the face of enormous challenges presented to the leadership in the Church we continue to build on these structures to involve lay people in the ministry and life of the Church. It is the only way forward.

The message of St Paul in today’s second reading presents that challenge starkly. He said;

 “May the God of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception to bring you to the full knowledge of him”.

That is our hope for the future. That has to be the way forward, in humility and determination that all of it can be achieved through a firm conviction that we are not alone in this work. That spiritual awareness and dependence on the Lord himself was the inspiration of Cardinal Daly’s life and work. May he rest in peace.


Further information
Martin Long, 086 1727678