Statement by Bishop Donal McKeown on the death of Bishop Patrick Walsh RIP, Bishop Emeritus of Down and Connor

29 Dec 2023

Statement by Bishop Donal McKeown, Apostolic Administrator of Down and Connor, upon the death of Bishop Patrick Walsh RIP, Bishop Emeritus of Down and Connor

It is with great sadness that I learned of the death of Bishop Patrick Walsh yesterday evening in Nazareth Care Village, Belfast, where he had resided in his later years of retirement.

I know that you will join me in praying for Bishop Patrick and in offering his brother Michael and sister-in-law Angela, his late brother Jack and late sister Mary, his nieces Maria and Jacqueline, his nephew Michael, their families and his wider family and friends, our heartfelt condolences and our prayers over the coming days.

In his early years of ministry, as a gifted academic, Bishop Patrick taught Mathematics at Saint MacNissi’s College, Garron Tower (1958 – 1964), served as University Chaplain in Queens University Belfast (1964 – 1970), before being appointed as President of Saint Malachy’s College, Belfast (1970 – 1983).  He was also Chairperson of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS).  His personal commitment to Catholic education was well known and his robust defence of it will long be remembered.  These early years of his priestly ministry taught Bishop Patrick that Catholic education, and the values it espouses, opens up incalculable opportunities for young people and assists the journey towards peace in a society often torn apart by violence and conflict.

Ordained as an Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese of Down and Connor in 1983, alongside Bishop Anthony Farquhar, whose funeral we celebrated just some weeks ago, these two faithfully served the diocese not only through the sacramental celebration of Confirmation but each played their own role in the peace process.  Their years of episcopal ministry were marked by the many funerals of those who had lost their lives in the midst of conflict.  Into that space, they spoke words of faith-filled hope, solidarity and challenge, faith-filled hope in the Risen Christ, solidarity with those who mourned the loss of loved ones and words of challenge to those entrusted with the process of peace-making.  We should honour both their memories by strengthening our resolve to continue to take forward the peace process in Northern Ireland.

In 1991, Bishop Patrick was appointed as Bishop of Down and Connor and he was utterly dedicated and faithful in his service of the Church.  Alongside his diocesan responsibilities, he was a member of various Irish Episcopal Commissions including Justice and Peace, and was a member of the Joint Bio-ethics Committee of the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, ardently seeking to protect human life from the moment of conception to its natural death.

On the day of his episcopal ordination, a bishop chooses a motto upon which to model his life and ministry.  Bishop Patrick chose Ex Animo Operari (“To work with one’s heart”), from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Colossians (Col. 3:24).  In this passage, Saint Paul reminds us that, as Christians, it is Christ that we serve and that we will share, through Baptism, in Christ’s Death and Resurrection.  As we give thanks to God for the years of ministry and service of Bishop Patrick Walsh, we entrust him to the heart of Christ.

I commend his soul into the hands of God and pray that he may enjoy eternal rest.


Notes for Editors

Bishop Patrick Walsh was born in April 1931 in Cobh, Co Cork, but his family moved to Belfast when he was eleven-years-old.

He was educated at Saint Mary’s Christian Brothers’ Grammar School, Belfast, before attending QUB from 1948 – 1952, where he took a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics.

From there he went to the Pontifical Lateran University, Rome for four years, where he obtained a Licentiate in Theology.

Bishop Walsh was ordained on 25 February 1956 in Rome following the completion of his studies there and this was followed by two years in Christ’s College, Cambridge where he obtained a MSc in Mathematics and subsequently also obtained a MSc from Queen’s University.

In 1958 he was appointed to the staff of Saint MacNissi’s College, Garron Tower and remained there until 1964, when he was appointed Chaplain to the Catholic students attending Queen’s University.

In 1970 he was appointed President of Saint Malachy’s College, Belfast.

Bishop Walsh was ordained as Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese of Down and Connor in 1983 and in 1991 he was appointed Bishop of Down and Connor.

He was a member of various Episcopal Commissions including Justice and Peace, and Chairman of the Department of Planning and Communications.  He was a Trustee of Trócaire, a member of the Finance and General Purposes Committee of the Irish Episcopal Conference, Chairman of the Commission for Clergy, Seminaries, Vocations, a member of the Joint Bio-ethics Committee of the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland, and a member of the Irish Bishops’ Committee for Bioethics.

He was a member of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools and Chairman of the Board of Governors of Saint Mary’s University College and Chairman of the Trustees of the four Diocesan Colleges.  He was also Chairman of the Trustees of the Mater Hospital.

Bishop Walsh retired on 29 June 2008.