PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins has led the tributes to former Bishop of Galway and Kerry Eamonn Casey, who died this afternoon.
The President said that he “heard with sadness” of the death this afternoon.
“There will be many who will remember his work on homelessness and housing with the Irish emigrant community in Britain,” President Higgins said.
As Chairman of Trócaire, he encouraged the organisation to become a leading NGO campaigning for justice as well as responding to humanitarian distress and poverty in the developing world.
After his attendance at the funeral of Bishop Romero who was assassinated in El Salvador, Irish awareness of the sources of conflict in Central and South America was significantly increased. While serving as mayor of Galway I was asked by Bishop Casey to visit, with other parliamentarians, El Salvador and to speak to the religious and others who were reporting on human rights and the killings that were taking place.
President Higgins also made reference to Casey’s well-publicised mistakes for which the President said he expressed “deep regret”.
“Other aspects of his life were the source of pain to others, for which Bishop Casey has apologised and expressed his deep regret, and he himself had the experience of pain visited on him in later life.”
The revelation that Casey had fathered a son with American woman Annie Murphy in 1974 led to his resignation 18 years later.
In a statement issued this evening, Casey’s family including his son said he was a source of “great love and support”.
“On behalf of his son, Peter, his brother, Father Micheál, his sister, Ita Furlong, nieces and nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews, great-grand nieces and great-grand nephews, we wish to acknowledge the priestly work of Bishop Eamonn, especially in the pursuit of social justice for the marginalised, ” the statement read.
Notwithstanding the demands on his time, Bishop Eamonn was a great source of love and support, making himself available to celebrate and to empathise with us in all our important family occasions. We wish to thank all of those who supported him in the past, in particular, the clergy and the people of the dioceses of Galway and Kerry, the Irish community in London, his many friends in Limerick and throughout the country and abroad.
The family also made a specific thanks to those who cared for him during his long illness.
Trócaire have also paid tribute to Casey for the work he did on the charity’s behalf as their first ever chairperson.
A statement from Trócaire said that Casey “worked assiduously on behalf of marginalised communities” in the developing world.
“For two decades Bishop Casey was the driving force behind Trócaire. Bishop Casey and Brian McKeown, the first director, formed a dynamic partnership. Together, they stood courageously with the world’s poor and championed their cause when others would not do so,” said Trócaire’s executive Éamonn Meehan.
When Archbishop Romero was murdered while saying Mass in 1980, Bishop Casey attended his funeral. The funeral was attacked by death squads and Bishop Casey narrowly avoided injury. He spent two hours administering the sacrament of the injured. He was reported to have been the only Bishop to have remained at the Cathedral, with other visiting Bishops brought away for their own safety.
Despite being blacklisted by the Catholic Church in Ireland following the revelations about his son, Archbishop Eamon Martin has said that he wants to “sincerely acknowledge the contribution of Bishop Casey”.
“Bishop Casey was a long-serving member of the standing committee of the Bishops’ Conference and, in 1973, was one of the founder members of its overseas development agency Trócaire. Bishop Casey’s inspirational leadership of Trócaire pioneered a very significant pastoral outreach from this country towards the most vulnerable people in the developing world,” Martin said.
At this sad time for Bishop Casey’s family, and for the dioceses of Kerry and Galway, I invite the faithful to pray for the repose of Bishop Casey’s soul. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
Casey’s former diocese in Galway has also expressed its sympathy to his family via its administrator Canon Michael McLoughlin.
“Their loss is also our loss. Bishop Eamonn has been part of our lives for many decades and today it is natural that we would reflect and remember. And there are many memories,” McLoughlin said.
When we witness homelessness, poverty and inequality in our society we remember with renewed respect his initiative, his tremendous work and his tenacious spirit among Irish emigrants in England, which ensured for so many the dignity of shelter and a place they could call home.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has also expressed his condolences and paid tribute to Casey, calling him a “passionate and energetic church leader”.
“His determination to fight poverty and injustice was not confined to Ireland and the UK, and he played an integral role in the establishment of Trócaire becoming the first Chairman of the aid agency,” Martin said.