Eucharist was central in Cardinal Desmond Connell’s teaching and Eucharist was central in his life, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said at the solemn funeral Mass in St Mary’s Pro Cathedral on Friday morning.
Addressing mourners, including relatives of the Cardinal, 24
archbishops, bishops, as well as members of the Dublin diocesan clergy,
members of religious orders and former staff and carers, Archbishop
Martin said they were gathered to “bid our farewell in this earthly life
to Cardinal Desmond Connell”.
Noting the presence of so many priests at the funeral, he said it was
a “sign of the respect and affection that priests had for the Cardinal
and the affection he had for priests.”
Archbishop Martin said the Cardinal’s love for priests sprang from
his deep respect for those whose calling and ministry it is to celebrate
the Eucharist and to bring the Eucharist as nourishment for his flock.
“His bond of friendship with priests was not just camaraderie: it was
the fruit of that special bond with one another which is forged through
the gift of Eucharist which builds up the Church.”
He said that faith in Jesus Christ is more like the struggle of
knowing a loved one and experiencing each day the struggle between the
richness of that love and the realisation of our own failings and
Cardinal Connell struggled in his thought and in his seeking for Jesus.
“At times he was troubled by a sense inadequacy in his prayer life,
though he would put most of us to shame in comparison. He made mistakes
in his decisions and he struggled with the consequences.”
He also highlighted that Dr Connell never sought ecclesiastical office but when called to office he gave his best.
“He achieved much, not for himself, but in response to the charge
that he was given by the Lord of leading the Church of Jesus Christ in
Dublin in his time.”
Dr Martin said God had given Cardinal Desmond Connell the gift of a long life.
The former Archbishop of Dublin died in his 91st year,
after almost 65 years a priest, almost 29 years a bishop and a cardinal
for 16 years, that anniversary falling on the very day of his death.
Speaking about the role of a bishop, he said they are called to carry
out so many functions that it could easily be overlooked that a bishop
is in the first place a preacher and a teacher of the word of God.
“The centre of this Archdiocese of Dublin is not Archbishop’s House
nor the diocesan offices. It is this Cathedral and especially this altar
where the bishop leads the celebration of the Eucharist and this Chair
or Cathedra which is the symbol of the teaching role of the bishop.”
Describing Cardinal Connell as an “untiring preacher”, he noted that
he had written over 20 pastoral letters, all focused on what is most
central in the life of a Christian and the Christian community.
Cardinal Connell, he said, was a man of prayer, that deep prayer
which sought to understand the profundity of the mystery of God’s love
which is revealed in Jesus Christ.
Addressing the clerical abuse crisis, he said Cardinal Connell became Archbishop at a difficult time in the diocese.
Many comments in recent says had noted that he was slow to recognise the extent of the problem of child sexual abuse by priests.
“It is not enough to make that comment now from a distance. It must
be said that he found himself surrounded by a culture and at times by
advisors who were slow and perhaps even unwilling to recognise both the
extent of the problem and the enormous hurt that had been done to
children, a hurt they still carry with them. That hurt has still to be
fully recognised; that wound cannot be consigned to past history. For
victims it still remains.
“It is also true that it was Cardinal Connell who was the one who
finally began to realise the extent of the abuse and the extent of the
damage done to children and with difficulty began to drag out
information which some were still reluctant to share.
“He must be remembered as the one who established the child
protection service in this diocese, which was the beginning of a new
culture which has now, thank God, been widely accepted and welcomed.
“But here there is never room for complacency. No one more than Pope
Francis constantly puts us on warning – whether we like it or not – of
the perennial dangers of a closed clerical culture.”
He also highlighted that Cardinal Connell is remembered by many as an
academic and a speculative philosopher and that his philosophical
ability was constantly penetrated and challenged and made reality by his
“He did not just talk about justice: he felt the needs and responded
to the needs of the poor, of travellers, of refugees, of the homeless
and of victims of addiction and of HIV/AIDS. He felt those needs not
just in an abstract way.”
Acknowledging that Dr Connell was not a politician or a vote seeker,
he admitted that his predecessor may have been, at times, insensitive in
things he said, but not out of malice.
In St Mary’s Pro Cathedral, the Cardinal’s coffin stood before the
altar and the symbols placed on his coffin included a pall, a book of
the gospels, a cross, a stole and mitre.
The chief mourners included the late Cardinal’s sister-in-law, Peggy;
his nephews John, Denis and Mark; as well as grandnieces, grandnephews,
a wide family circle, and his carers.
The Mass was concelebrated by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop
Charles Brown, Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop Michael Neary and
Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly.
They were joined by other member of the Irish Bishops’ Conference,
the Dublin Metropolitan Chapter, priests, religious, deacons and lay
faithful of the Archdiocese.
The Palestrina Choir under the direction of Blánaid Murphy and
organist, Professor Gerard Gillen, included the following music in the
liturgy: Mozart’s ‘Lacrimosa’; ‘Agnus Dei’ by Palestrina; Mozart’s ‘Ave
Verum Corpus’, and ‘Requiem Aeternam’ in plainchant.
The readings were read by John Connell and Marcus Heather, nephews of
the late Cardinal, while the prayers of the faithful were read by Dr
Eileen Kane, a retired lecturer in history of art at UCD and a friend of
Cardinal Connell was laid to rest following a final commendation and farewell in the Crypt of St Mary’s Pro Cathedral.
Speaking after the funeral Mass, the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles
Brown recalled how he had first come to know Cardinal Connell through
his role at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).
After he retired from the CDF, Archbishop Brown did not see him again until his own appointment as nuncio to Ireland.
“It was a bit of a reunion at that point; I hadn’t seen him perhaps
in ten years. So I re-established contact with him here in Dublin – I
would visit him in his house. I was very fond of him. He was a very kind
and good man, a very intelligent man – a man who had nothing but the
best interests of the Church, of Christ and of children in his mind.”
Asked what he thought Cardinal Connell’s greatest legacy to the Irish
Church was, the Papal Nuncio said it was Cardinal Connell who took the
first steps towards resolving the abuse crisis.
“Those steps, as any first steps are, were perhaps uncertain, untried
and needed to be furthered and deepened, but he took those steps and
that is what he will be remembered for.”
Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick, who served as a priest in the
archdiocese of Dublin under Cardinal Connell, told CatholicIreland.net
that he was “very warm and very encouraging to me as a priest”.
Bishop Leahy said that “He had a humble spirit and was anxious at
times about doing the right thing. That must have caused him terrible
personal pain when he had to deal with very complex, difficult
situations. I think he did have a lot of anguish about that.
“We could see at the time he was under pressure – you could see it
visibly in his face, that he was bent low by the weight of it. We could
see that there was something worrying him deeply.
“He did his part. I think that is what is important today to
recognise that he wanted to do his part – he recognised his limits, his
mistakes, his failures. He himself said that he was devastated by it.”
A survivor of clerical abuse, Mark Vincent Healy, said he attended
the funeral to “see how a prince of the church is honoured and respected
as he departs this life.
“I was thinking of those who also are princes and princesses of the
church who should be leaving this life with the same dignity,” he said
of other victims of clerical abuse.
“In this act, I honoured what were the achievements of this man in
trying to do good but also recognising that he had failings like every
one of us. We all require life and redemption that only comes through
He had never met Cardinal Connell. But he said Archbishop Connell was
influential in his own life because of a connection with his own abuse
“Evidences which were actually available at the Archbishop’s house
were not made known to my investigators for over three years.”
However, Mr Healy suggested that he would like to try to move
forward. “But moving forward is not to forget things – moving forward is
to actually achieve something out of all of this and there is still so
much work to be done for survivors. There is a lot of suffering out
“I think we have yet to do a lot of work here. Child protection is
very important but we also must ensure that the provision of care to all
those survivors and their families is more than adequate. I don’t think
it is but we can still work on that.”
Cardinal Seán Brady said he was saddened by the news of the death of Cardinal Desmond Connell.
“I came to know him when he became archbishop of Dublin; he came out
to Rome and we remained great friends since. He was not alone a great
friend but a great support, a wise counsellor, friend, man of prayer,
man of faith and man of conviction. For that and for many other reasons
we soldiered together on many different occasions.”
He said the Cardinal had always been “a dependable, trustworthy, gracious, considerate, kind person.”
Cardinal Brady said: “I extend sympathy to his family, whom he
esteemed very much. He had a great love of Dublin and a great love of
the Church above all. He was very very conscientious and very dutiful
and I know that he is reaping the reward of that today.”