A papal tribute to Bloody Sunday priest Edward Daly’s dedication to peace and justice was read out at his funeral yesterday.
As a young cleric, the future Bishop of Derry waved a blood-stained white rag as a symbol of ceasefire as he led a mortally injured teenage civil rights protester to safety under British army fire in January 1972.
The peacemaker and staunch opponent of all violence died on Monday aged 82. President Michael D Higgins and Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness were among mourners at a Requiem Mass at St Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry.
Former SDLP leader John Hume and Ivan Cooper, a Protestant who fought for civil rights and helped found the party, were also present.
A message from a spokesman for Pope Francis said: “Recalling Bishop Daly’s generous and dedicated episcopal ministry in the service of peace and justice, His Holiness joins you in prayerful thanksgiving for his life and in commending his soul to the merciful love of God Our Father.”
Several thousand Derry people, both inside and outside the Cathedral, joined more than 120 members of the clergy to pay their respects.
The current Bishop of Derry, Donal McKeown, paid tribute to Bishop Daly as a man of peace who opposed violence from all quarters during the Troubles.
“His ministry was marked by total dedication to the people he served, wherever he was called to minister.
“That dedication was visible in outstanding courage. He showed physical courage on Bloody Sunday and his moral courage was evident in his passionate struggle against violence and injustice from all quarters.”
Bishop McKeown said the thousands of people who had filed past the coffin of Bishop Daly in the past four days showed they value loving, courageous, generous spiritual leadership.
Bishop Daly, he said, would not seek praise for himself. He would ask that more young people dedicate their lives to his sort of service to God and his people.
President Higgins arrives at Bishop Daly's funeral at St Eugene's Cathedral pic.twitter.com/2zfwbmD0pq— Leona O'Neill (@LeonaONeill1) August 11, 2016
He said his first encounter with Bishop Daly was when he visited the Irish College in Rome in 1974. “He was a young bishop and we were studying theology. He asked us to do one thing — he said ‘please pray for me’.
“This was not merely a pious expression. Rather they seemed to come from a heart which knew the maelstrom that was Northern Ireland in those awful years.
“He knew about murder and loss. He knew that the years of conflict followed upon decades of terrible poverty and discrimination — as well as heroic generosity.
“He knew the enormous resilience of people who could face almost anything together.”
Archbishop Eamon Martin, speaking at the end of the Mass, said Bishop Daly was “a wonderful priest and bishop with charisma that made him so uniquely suited to service in this time and place.”
He added: “There was never any doubt that Edward Daly was a great priest, a caring and compassionate pastor, a man of prayer and peace, a courageous and fearless leader, a special person”.
As a young priest, Bishop Daly’s use of a white handkerchief during the Bloody Sunday massacre of innocent civil rights protesters by soldiers in Derry became an enduring image of the conflict. He had famously led the brave group bearing fatally injured Jackie Duddy, 17, to safety.
Paratroopers had opened fire and killed 13 people. Fourteen were injured and another was to die later.
Bishop Daly’s 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.
Dr Daly was Bishop of Derry from 1974 until 1993, stepping aside after suffering a stroke.
In recent years he had battled a long-term illness.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved