Hundreds of mourners from across Belfast have joined politicians and clergy of all denominations for the funeral of Fr Alec Reid, the quiet priest who was central to the early days of the peace process.
The congregation, which filled Clonard monastery in west Belfast, heard that Fr Alec, as he was known, "loved the people of Belfast". Delivery the homily, Fr Michael Kelleher, provincial superior of the Redemptorists, added: "What he learned of peace-making he learned on the streets."
The mourners were led by Fr Reid's aunt Ita Kavanagh; his sister Margaret and his nephew James O'Meara; his other sister Maura, her husband Dan Lister and their sons; and Fr Reid's many cousins.
Former SDLP leader John Hume was joined in the congregation by Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams. Also there were Foyle MP Mark Durkan and Assembly member Alex Attwood. Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness attended along with West Belfast MP Paul Maskey and Assembly member Alex Maskey. Representing the DUP were Stormont finance minister Simon Hamilton and Assembly member Jimmy Spratt.
Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt attended to pay his respects.
President Michael D Higgins was represented by his ADC Col Brendan McAndrew while Taoiseach Enda Kenny was represented by Cmmdt Alan Bolger.
Former president Mary McAleese and her husband Senator Martin McAleese attended, as did Barbara Jones, the joint secretary of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Secretariat.
The US administration was represented by the Consul General Gregory Burton while Basque Senator Urko Aiartza attended as a mark of respect for the work done by Fr Reid in the conflict in his country.
Dozens of clergy from the main denominations attended. They included Cardinal Seán Brady and Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor; the Rev Norman Hamilton representing the Presbyterian Moderator Robert Craig; former moderator Dr Ken Newell; Bishop Robert Abernethy representing the Church of Ireland primate Dr Richard Clarke; and the Rev Heather Morris, president of the Methodist church.
The Mass was celebrated by Fr Michael Murtagh, rector of Clonard, many members of the Redemptorist order in Ireland and clergy from across Belfast and the diocese.
The Rev Harold Good, the former Methodist president who worked closely with Fr Reid on paramilitary decommissioning in 2005, read the second lesson.
In his homily, Fr Kelleher spoke of the deceased’s seven principles. He said these were a firm belief that “everything is possible” if one has faith in the Holy Spirit, commitment to the dignity of each human being, acceptance of dialogue as the basis of peace-making, the need to involve men and women equally, belief in the rights of a community to culture and identity, the rights of Christians to practise and the belief in a “new structural vision of the church”.
Mrs McAleese, addressing the congregation after Communion, said Fr Reid was never “a liturgy and lace” priest. She described him as a brave radical who sought to build peace in a toxic atmosphere which local people had not created, but had recreated.
“He believed we are better than we had become,” she said.
Bishop Treanor said Fr Reid was a “threshold-crosser” and a “pusher of new paradigms”. He called on those presently involved in violence to think again and to call off their “futile campaign”.
Fr Reid’s remains were then taken from the monastery where he had served for 40 years for burial in the Redemptorist plot at nearby Milltown Cemetery in accordance with his wishes.