Funeral tributes for Bishop Thomas Flynn

Cardinal Brady led clergy members who paid their respects to retired Bishop of Achonry

Pope Francis sent a message of condolence to the funeral Mass of Bishop Thomas Flynn, retired Bishop of Achonry, which took place on Saturday.

The funeral took place in Bishop Flynn’s home town of Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, and started with a procession of 11 Bishops, a Cardinal and dozens of priests.

Cardinal Seán Brady, the retired Archbishop of Armagh, led dozens of clergy members at the funeral in the Cathedral of the Annunciation and St Nathy. At the time of his retirement in 2007, Bishop Flynn was the longest-serving member of the Irish hierarchy.

A congregation of about 500 people including the Taoiseach’s aide-de-camp Commandant Kieran Carey heard Bishop Brendan Kelly of Achonry pay a warm tribute to his predecessor. He stressed Bishop’s Flynn’s reputation for kindness as a teacher, and his insistence on retaining the Catholic status of St Nathy’s college in Ballaghaderreen, where he served as president for many years.

The late Bishop Flynn, who was regarded as a conservative, led his diocese for almost 31 years and was spokesman for the Catholic hierarchy during some of the some of the most challenging times for the church in Ireland.

Bishop Kelly alluded to the pressures in his homily. “Despite the fact that his years as chief pastor of this diocese were not always the easiest, Bishop Tom always said that he had enjoyed being a bishop,” he told the congregation. “He was not a man to complain. He followed Jesus.”

The chief mourners at the funeral were Bishop Flynn's nieces and nephews, and Bishop Kelly paid special tribute to his niece Margaret Flynn who took care of him in his later years. It was a simple ceremony with no personalised offertory gifts, apart from the bread and wine.

Welcoming the 40 or so priests, Bishop Kelly described them as “Bishop Tom’s staunch collaborators and friends”. He added: “Bishop Tom was a much loved man of this parish, and a Roscommon man.” Bishop Willie Walsh recalled him as “a humble man who did not speak loudly of his own ability”.

Bishop Flynn was laid to rest in the grounds of the cathedral where almost 84 years ago he had been baptised.

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports from the northwest of Ireland