It was with great sadness that I learned this morning of the death of our beloved Bishop Edward Daly.
As the bishop who ordained me to the priesthood in 1987, I had huge admiration for Bishop Edward. I shall always be grateful for his pastoral guidance, kindness and support.
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.
Appointed as Bishop of Derry in 1974, 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.
Bishop Edward literally spent himself in the service of others. His episcopal motto ‘pasce oves meas‘ (feed my sheep) inspired a total pastoral giving of himself in service and love for his diocese. He 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.
As a pastor he was very attentive to prisoners, internees, their families and loved ones. He took a personal interest in those who suffered miscarriages of justice. 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.
As a gifted spiritual leader and communicator, his words touched the hearts of many people, but his ministry was not confined to preaching. 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. Bishop Edward will 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.
Bishop Edward’s bravery was also apparent in his lived conviction that violence from any side during the Troubles was futile and could never be morally justified. He was courageous in speaking out against injustice and took many personal risks for peace and reconciliation. His personal friendship with Bishop James Mehaffey sent a quiet, yet powerful message of harmony and bridge building across the community divide.
At an Episcopal Conference level, apart from his trusted and respected contributions on Northern Ireland matters, Bishop Edward was generous with his many gifts and talents. He served with distinction as spokesperson for the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference and in 1975 established its first Press and Information Office (now the Catholic Communications Office). 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.
While today many hearts are hurting in Ireland and especially throughout Derry, let us rejoice that we have been fortunate to share in some small way in the life of this contemporary Christian hero whose lexicon did not include the word “No”.
It was such a pity that, due to ill health, Bishop Edward had to retire prematurely from his episcopal leadership of the Diocese of Derry. However, always a priest, he continued through his hospice ministry and gentle presence to witness to his love for the priesthood, his unfailing duty and service to the Church, and his generosity of heart. In my visits to him in recent weeks at home and in hospital he told me he was ‘at peace’. May he now rest forever in the peace of Christ and may God comfort and console his family and loved ones.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilís.
+ Eamon Martin
Archbishop of Armagh and President of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference
Notes for Editors
- Life and ministry:Born on 5 December 1933 in Beleek, Co Fermanagh, Edward Daly was a boarder in Saint Columb’s College, Derry, and subsequently studied for the priesthood in the Pontifical Irish College, Rome, and was ordained on 16 March 1957. He was a curate in the parish of Saint Eugene’s Cathedral in the Diocese of Derry, which includes the Bogside area of Derry City, during The Troubles. Bishop Daly served as Bishop of Derry from 31 March 1974 to 26 October 1993, retiring due to ill health. He subsequently took up a post as chaplain to Foyle Hospice. As an author Bishop Daly published Mister, Are you a Priest?; Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled; and was co-author of The Clergy of the Diocese of Derry: an Index, and has contributed to A History of the Diocese of Derry.
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