Address by Bishop Noel Treanor at the Funeral of Father Alec Reid CSsR
I join today, together with the family of Father Alec Reid, his friends, church and public representatives, politicians and parishioners as we celebrate his funeral liturgy. With so many, we give thanks to God for a good and dedicated pastor who reached across boundaries as he served people.
Father Alec Reid’s priestly service was a ministry of consolation, mediation and reconciliation – from his early work with the travelling community here in Belfast, through his contribution towards the peace process and in his tireless endeavours in ecumenical engagement. He was an ambassador of God’s peace, mercy and loving-kindness.
That this son of Tipperary, of great hurling prowess in his youth, chose to be buried here among us speaks eternally of his bond with the people of Belfast and the generations he served during his forty years of priestly ministry here.
On behalf of the bishops, priests and parishioners of the Diocese of Down and Connor I offer my condolences to his family and to the Redemptorist community in Clonard. I thank the Redemptorist Congregation for Father Alec’s work and priestly ministry among us for over 40 years. That ministry as a priest and Redemptorist was the source of immeasurable blessings for countless individuals in this city and beyond.
Father Alec was a dedicated priest. Inspired by the Gospel of peace, and constant in his trust of the Holy Spirit, his was a ministry of immersion in the often tough and complex realities of God’s people who, yearning and struggling for a more just social order, looked to the message of Jesus for courage, comfort and hope. Like so many other priests, religious, lay faithful in this Diocese and beyond, as well as many Christian ministers of other denominations, Fr Alec sought that comfort and hope in practical initiatives and prayerful encounter.
In his Apostolic Exhortation on proclaiming the joy of the Gospel in Today’s World, published yesterday, Pope Francis speaks of the ‘ongoing process in which every new generation must take part: a slow and arduous effort calling for a desire for integration and a willingness to achieve this through the growth of a peaceful and multifaceted culture of encounter.” (EG, n. 220)
As Father Alec knew only too well, the process of building peace after decades of violent conflict requires commitment to the often slow and arduous process of healing, encounter, dialogue and compromise. The wounds of violence and injustice are so visceral and deep that for many even the possibility of healing will inevitably and understandably be gradual and slow, if it is possible at all. Peace-building is a task and a call to Christians particularly, to which Fr Alec would ask us to remain alive and sensitive, allowing our hearts and minds to be touched and transformed by a shared commitment to love of neighbour and to that truth which ultimately sets us free (Jn 8.32).
Thankfully, through the patient efforts of people like Father Alec and all those who have set us on the journey to peace, to which the overwhelming majority of our citizens north and south are committed, we can glimpse the realistic hope of what Pope Francis calls a future of ‘reconciled diversity’ (EG, n.230). As he explains, this future is not limited to the peace brought about by a ‘negotiated settlement, but rather the conviction that the unity brought about by the Spirit can harmonize every diversity’. In these lines we hear, I suggest, an echo, timely and ever-challenging, of Father Alec’s motto or mantra, his compass in the most difficult and uncertain moments of the journey to peace – that motto was: let us trust in the Holy Spirit!
In commending this artisan of peace to the mercy of God, we call on that small minority of people who continue to believe that violence, destruction and fear have any part in human affairs to think again. We call on them, not in the tired and blood-soaked rhetoric of the past but in the hope-filled and positive language of the future, to which the children and young people of this generation attach their dreams, to stop their dark, futile and backward-looking violent activity now. Such activity has absolutely no basis in the will of the Irish people, and is completely contrary to the will and call of God.
Let us pray for those who are still locked in the tragic, self-destructive pathology of conflict, as Father Alec would have prayed. In his memory and in the spirit of his life and work, in fidelity to the joy and peace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, let us redouble of commitment to bringing about the peace, good will and ‘reconciled diversity’ to which Father Alec gave himself with such dedication and which is the hope and promise offered by God to humanity in the person of the Risen Christ, our Saviour.