Words of Bishop Donal McKeown delivered at the end of Funeral Mass for Peter Wilson RIP

17 Dec 2010

17 December 2010

Words of Bishop Donal McKeown delivered at the end of the funeral Mass for Peter Wilson RIP

Holy Cross Church, Ardoyne

Funerals are never happy occasions but this is a day that many people in the Wilson extended family have, in a strange way, been looking forward to. And many other people are glad for them that there will now be a grave where Peter’s remains are laid to rest with dignity, along with his parents who died without knowing where their only son was. After the last 37 long years, they all deserve the dignity and consolation that will help them to come to terms with the terrible pain of the past. On behalf of Bishop Noel Treanor, I wish to publicly extend the condolences of the clergy of the diocese to Marie, Helen, Patricia, Anne and Geraldine, and their families. This could never be a happy day, but in its own way in this church of the Holy Cross, it is a Good Friday.

The world is marked with a lot of suffering and pain. Some of it seems to come from natural disasters and from terrible diseases. But much of the pain is created by humans. The purpose of religious faith is not to be a form of escapism but to give people courage to face the pain of being human and not be crushed by it. The story of the Bible is simply a statement that God loves the world and desires that the world be healed of all those things that break human hearts and bodies. Jesus’ resurrection was a statement that not even human brutality and betrayal could destroy God’s plan for the world. And because we believe that, whatever our talents and whatever our past, we are all made in God’s image and likeness – then we have that trust that neither what others do to us nor what we do to others can destroy the love that God has for each of us. The Wilson family have inspired many by that sort of dignity over the 37 years since August 1973 – and the last tense weeks and months.

Peter must have met a terrible and frightening death, followed by a burial, devoid of all dignity and humanity. But neither the challenges he met in life nor the brutality he met in death could make him less loved by his family or by the God who created him. Faith gives us the ability to believe that, when someone slips through our fingers, he or she will be held up by the God who made him in his own image and likeness. Faith is not about fleeing the world but being equipped to face all that life throws at us. It means that people are equipped to look death and tragedy in the eye and not being bowed.

I hope and pray that today will be one more day of healing for the whole family circle – those who knew Peter in life and those who know him only as a name spoken in love.

Today would not have been possible without the work of many people – those who received information, those who dug in hope and those who helped after the remains were found on Waterfoot beach. It is also important to acknowledge those who provided information as to where the searchers might dig. Terrible things were done in the past. Those deeds marked the life of victims and their families for ever. But we all know that young men and women were sent out by others to do dirty deeds – and that many of them now suffer mental illness and addiction because of awful things that they did or saw. There is much healing to be done in the lives of individuals. To those who still suffer from memories of what they were involved in, I say, “Nothing that you did can destroy God’s dream that you, too, might be healed. You too can still lay the past to rest and trust that there will be resurrection. The truth can help to set us all free from the prison of the past.”

To those who would dare to tell today’s young people that murder and mayhem are glorious, I would say, “stop telling lies, stop trying to condemn a new generation of your own people to heartbreaking funerals, tear-filled Christmases and lost lives. We don’t want another generation of Peter Wilsons, Charlie Armstrongs and the seven others bodies uncovered in recent years. We don’t want another generation lost to death, prison and wasted opportunities. Help young people to love life and not to hate others and end up hating themselves as well. Solutions can be found to all problems. But problems will not be found by simply creating more problems.”

Peter was a young man who faced challenges in life. He might have lived his years in a quiet unnoticed way. He is now a household name as we lay him to rest today. We pray that today’s funeral will be a time of consolation to his family and a sign of hope for our society. It is by laying to rest in Christ the victims of the past that we can find strength for the survivors of the past.


Further information:
Martin Long, Director of Communications 00353 (0) 86 172 7678
Brenda Drumm, Communications Officer 00353 (0) 87 310 4444