Bishop Eamon Casey, who will be laid to rest today (Thursday ) following his funeral Mass at Galway Cathedral at 2pm, was fondly remembered this week as a “great source of love and support” by his grieving family.
The 89-year-old Kerry-born cleric, who passed away at a Co Clare nursing home on Monday afternoon following a battle with Alzheimer’s disease, was particularly lauded for his readiness to be involved in family occasions and for his tireless humanitarian work.
In a statement issued 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, the family acknowledged his priestly work, particularly the pursuit of social justice for the marginalised. They said this was evident in his work with Shelter in London in the 1950s and 1960s and later with his involvement in the setting up and development of Trócaire.
“Notwithstanding the demands on his time, Bishop Eamon 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 statement continued: “We would like to extend a very special and sincere thank you to the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, the management and staff of Carrigoran Nursing Home, Newmarket-On-Fergus, Co Clare, whose care for Bishop Eamon was of the highest possible standard and ensured that his comfort, dignity and pastoral needs were provided for at all times.”
It concluded with a request that the media facilitate the privacy of the family during and after the funeral ceremonies.
Bishop Casey, who became a household name when he introduced Pope John Paul 11 at Ballybrit in 1979 but fell from grace in 1992 when it emerged he had fathered a child with an American divorcee, was remembered this week for his “inspirational leadership” of Trocaire by Archbishop Eamon Martin, the Archbishop of Armagh, the Primate of All Ireland and president of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
He said it was with “great sadness” that he learned of the death of the Bishop Emeritus of Galway and Kilmacduagh. He went on to acknowledge his contribution to the work of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference over 23 years during his time as Bishop of Kerry and Galway.
“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, while at the same time he energetically raised awareness of overseas development issues at home in Ireland.”
He outlined that Bishop Casey led Trócaire as its chairman until his resignation in 1992. “Bishop Casey also contributed to the planning of the successful 1979 apostolic pilgrimage to Ireland of Pope Saint John Paul II. Both as priest and bishop, Bishop Casey’s ministry on behalf of Irish emigrants is well known and was of immense significance in particular to the Irish in Britain.
“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.”
Very Rev Canon Michael McLoughlin, the diocesan administrator, said the loss experienced by Bishop Casey’s family is “great and deeply felt”, and he assured them of people’s prayers and support, both now and in the days ahead.
Speaking on his own behalf and on that of the priests and religious of the diocese and of the “faithful people” of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora he said the family’s loss is “also our loss”.
“Bishop Eamon 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. 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 of the dignity of shelter and a place they could call home.
“We remember that Bishop Eamon brought that same undaunted passion to his ministry as Bishop of Kerry from 1969 to 1976 and to his subsequent ministry as Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh from 1976 to 1992. His indefatigable and boundless energy and his ability to lift and inspire generosity in people saw the building of churches for a growing population at Barna, Seamus Quirk Road, Headford Road, Ballybane, Knocknacarra, Maree, and adjacent to the NUI, Galway campus.”
Blessings to many
Canon McLaughlin said he spearheaded the work of Trocáire and helped found Galway Social Services. He established chaplaincies to respond to the needs of members of the Travelling Community and of prisoners at home and overseas.
“And then, on that memorable and historic day in September 1979, Bishop Eamon welcomed Pope John Paul II (now St John Paul ) to the city of Galway and to his home. Bishop Eamon brought blessings to many people.”
He said to be human, however, is to be both blessed and to be flawed. He pointed out that some of his actions caused great hurt and the circumstances giving rise to his resignation in 1992 has been the subject of ongoing analysis.
“Bishop Eamon asked for forgiveness from all those he hurt and he went on to minister in both Ecuador and England before retuning to Ireland to retire. In his latter years Bishop Eamon knew peace of mind and was surrounded by love, both in Shanaglish where he lived and at Carrigoran Nursing Home where he died. As we give thanks for his service to the people of God, we pray that he will also know peace and joy without end in eternal life. To quote the funeral liturgy: ‘We will pray for you Eamon, May you pray for us, May God and Mary be with you. Amen.”
President of Ireland Michael D Higgins stated that many people will remember the late bishop’s work on homelessness and housing with the Irish emigrant community in Britain.
“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 said that aspects of the deceased cleric’s life were “the source of pain to others”. “Bishop Casey has apologised and expressed his deep regret and he himself had the experience of pain visited on him in later life.”
• At the time of going to press it was confirmed that the remains of the late Bishop Eamon Casey would arrive at the main door of the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and Saint Nicholas at 7pm on Wednesday evening. The remains would be received by Bishop Martin Drennan, Bishop Emeritus of Galway and Kilmacduagh and the coffin would then be taken to lie before the main altar of the cathedral by 12 family members. A brief and simple liturgy was to follow which would include a scripture reading and psalm read by Helen Clifford, a niece of Bishop Casey. His funeral Mass will take place today (Thursday ) at 2pm. It will be followed by interment in the Cathedral crypt.