The priest also rejected what he called “the futility of violence”.
Before a packed St Oliver’s Church in Ballyvolane on the northside of Cork City, parish priest Fr John O’Donovan quoted Leo Tolstoy and referred to a Charlie Brown comic strip as he outlined how, in both life and death, Jesus had held out his hand to Aidan O’Driscoll.
Mourners at the church in Dublin Hill included fiancée Marion Ryan, his mother Nuala, his sisters Nicola and Ciara, and his brother Mark.
All played central roles in a respectful ceremony, with Fr O’Donovan stressing “the sacredness of human life” following the brutal killing of the 37-year-old in nearby Blackpool last week.
The native of Glenheights Park in Ballyvolane had been convicted in June 2005 of membership of the Real IRA, only for the conviction to be quashed three years later. Gardaí are hunting his killers but, yesterday, the focus turned to the victim, described as a family and community man.
“Many years ago, as a young priest in west Belfast, I said the funeral Mass of a young man who died as a result of a shooting,” said Fr O’Donovan.
“Looking back over those years, I remember the great loss of that young man and the pain, hurt, loneliness, and the grief it caused to those who loved him; the futility of violence in all its shapes and forms; but especially the loss of human life and the pain it leaves behind.
“The years have passed by since that funeral but with the shooting of Aidan last Wednesday [week], those feelings that I experienced many years ago re-emerge with his death, and that is the sacredness of human life — the hurt, pain, and emptiness that it causes to those who loved Aidan in this life.
“Today, we reach out to God with his loved ones in this Mass and we pray to the Lord to welcome Aidan onto the shores of eternity. At the beginning of every Mass, we ask the Lord to forgive our sins, our faults, and our failings, and we ask him for the strength to do better in the future.
“As we offer up this Mass for Aidan, we ask the Lord to forgive any faults or failings that he may have had during his life on this earth as now we begin our Mass for him.”
Later in his homily, Fr O’Donovan said: “Since the death of Aidan, a lot of words have been written and a lot of words have been spoken about him, so here today, with his loved ones and his extended family gathered around him in this sacred place and space for this community of Ballyvolane, we commend him to the love, the gentleness, and forgiveness of God Our Father, when one day we will ask the same for ourselves.
“We remember that, in death, it is not a door into the dark, it is a dark door into the light, and for Aidan and for his father Martin, and baby brother Joseph who have gone before him, for them and for Aidan we pray for their eternal rest and peace with God.”
Fr O’Donovan then referred to a worrisome Charlie Brown, fretting about growing up and feeling insecure, prompting his friend Lucy to reach over and say “hold my hand, Charlie Brown”.
“During our lives, and during the life of Aidan, I believe Jesus always has his hand out,” said the priest
“Today, for Aidan, we remember the words ‘Jesus, remember me’.
“We remember that Jesus is always holding out that hand of love, friendship, and forgiveness for all of us here today.
“We remember that he was always holding out his hand for Aidan during his life on this earth with the invitation: ‘Hold my hand, Aidan O’Driscoll.’ ”