SOME church insiders described Fr Brendan Leahy as "a safe pair of hands" in the wake of his appointment as the next bishop of Limerick, while critics have slated the appointment of "another pious apparatchik".
Those favouring the 53-year-old Dubliner's
appointment consider him a worthy intellectual successor to Bishop Donal
Murray, one of the Irish hierarchy's theological heavy-hitters.
Murray was parachuted into Limerick from the diocese of Dublin in 1996,
but was forced to resign in November 2009 following criticisms of his
handling of abuse allegations while an auxiliary bishop in Dublin.
Leahy is currently Professor of Systematic Theology at St Patrick's
College, Maynooth. A lawyer by training, he studied at UCD before being
called to the Bar in 1983. He was ordained in 1986.
one church insider as the kind of "pleasant and caring" face the
Catholic Church needs in order to rebuild the trust of the faithful in
Ireland, his rapid rise to the episcopacy comes despite one source
insisting "he is not a careerist".
He is deemed by some clerics as
However, according to a colleague in Maynooth, a point
in Fr Leahy's favour is that he is very much "centre ground" and cannot
be bracketed as either progressive or conservative.
He is, therefore,
seen as a possible bridge builder in a divided Irish church.
Though Fr Leahy grew up in Crumlin, both his parents, who were teachers, were from Ballyferriter in west Kerry.
his statement accepting the role, the bishop-elect said that though he
couldn't "claim to have great links with Limerick" his father taught for
a year in Athea, Co Limerick, in the 1940s.
Speaking at Limerick
cathedral, he added: "I recognise I'll probably have to improve my
knowledge of rugby, and be more informed about hurling."
was a key figure in the drafting of the overall theme of last year's
International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin: 'Communion with Christ and
One Another' and its emphasis on ecumenism.
He was also "crucial", according to Cardinal Sean Brady,
to the organisation of a major international theological conference
ahead of IEC2012, which according to one theologian showcased his
administrative skills and ability to work with a range of different
Sources suggest that the success of both events put him in line
for high-profile recognition.
Over the past couple of years Fr Leahy's name had been touted as a contender for other high-profile roles.