Bishop Leahy on passing of Cardinal Desmond Connell
Tuesday 21 February 2017: Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy has described the late Cardinal Archbishop of Dublin Desmond Connell, who died yesterday, as a man of intellectual stature, integrity and warmth.
Expressing his sympathies to relatives of Cardinal Connell, his successor Dr Diarmuid Martin, the auxiliary bishops, priests and all the people of the Archdiocese of Dublin, Bishop Leahy said that Cardinal Connell on a one-to-one basis connected with people on a very personal level though this may not have been the public perception of him.
“At a personal level, he was very good to me as a young priest and college lecturer, placing trust in me. He encouraged me in ecumenism and dialogue with other religions. I fondly recall him attending my ordination as Bishop in Limerick in 2013, despite his frailty and advancing years. I visited him before Christmas and though he was now clearly moving towards the end of his life’s journey, he had a sense of peace as he awaited the Lord’s final call. I asked him if had he any word of advice to me. He reminded me that rather than think it’s our work that matters, it’s important to always remember and be grateful for the work God is doing in our lives.
“He was a man of deep faith and piety and that sustained him in troubled times”.
Continuing, Bishop Leahy said: “He was a kind person and when you were in his company you felt his warmth and fatherliness. He spoke with great heart and connected with you on a personal level.
“He was a man of high theology with a great regard for the service of priesthood in the Church so he was very deeply hurt, shocked and devastated by priests who committed abuse. He abhorred that and it weighed very heavily on him. In truth, he was one of the first Archbishops to have to deal with abuse revelations in such a public way and it very much overwhelmed him. It rattled him to the core that someone in a sacred position could be responsible for such heinous crimes. He admitted his own limitations and mistakes in dealing with these matters, the handling of scandals and the deep distressed they caused.
“I was teaching in Clonliffe College at the time and remember seeing him often walking the grounds of the college with his head down. Sometimes he appeared very anxious as if he had the world on his shoulders and at that time he had. While there will be much said and written around his death about this phase of his life, I knew him as a person of warmth with a strong desire to show compassion. I hope and pray now that he is at peace.”