Cardinal Desmond Connell’s removal takes place in Dublin

History is made as two archbishops receive cleric’s remains

The remains of Cardinal Desmond Connell are received at St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin.  Photograph: Dave Meehan

The remains of Cardinal Desmond Connell are received at St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin. Photograph: Dave Meehan


Irish ecumenical history was made on Thursday night when the remains of Cardinal Desmond Connell were received at St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, by the city’s two archbishops, Catholic Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and Church of Ireland Archbishop Michael Jackson.

During the ceremony afterwards Archbishop Martin expressed his gratitude to Archbishop Jackson for being there.

He also said the presence of representatives of the religious community and the large number of clergy was “indicative of the affection felt for Cardinal Connell for his kindness to his priests on so many occasions”.

Cardinal Connell (90), who was archbishop of Dublin from 1988 to 2004, died on Tuesday last.

In a homily, Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin Eamonn Walsh spoke of the late cardinal’s “deep, deep faith” his gifts “as a philosopher, historian and lover of classical music; Malebranche, Mahler, the French Revolution.”

Use of words

Recalling that the cardinal used words “with laser precision”, he said such exactness “did not gift him to deal with modern communications.

Mixed with the complexities of scrupulosity, he was not equipped for the world of soundbites, door-stepping and media deadlines. It was not his forte.”

Being thrust “from the world of academia into being the front person for the largest diocese in the country had him stepping on the occasional landmine”.

This “often would have left him in a lonely place, were it not for his deep faith and belief that God was beside him.”

Remembering Cardinal Connell’s reaction to Mary Raftery’s documentary Cardinal Secrets, broadcast on RTÉ television in October 2002, Bishop Walsh said “his countenance visibly changed; contorted in shock and horror at the unspeakable depraved, degrading abuse unfolding before his eyes”.

It was “a seismic shift in his understanding”, but “it was a watershed moment that came too late for many”.

“He asked, and would want me to do so again today, to express without reservation his bitter regret and ‘ask for forgiveness from those so shamefully harmed’.”

Sense of humour

Later in the homily the bishop recalled Cardinal Connell’s “wonderful sense of humour” and how he loved to lace conversations with quotations from Gilbert and Sullivan.

“He had his own parody of ‘I am the very model of a modern major general’.”

Or “when somebody would say something that was totally irrelevant, he would say: ‘Like the flowers that bloom in the spring ha, ha, nothing to do with the case.’”

He criticised “in a fond way”. Talking “about somebody who didn’t like hard work he’d have him saying: ‘I don’t like to work on Wednesdays as it’s inclined to spoil both weekends.’”

Bishop Walsh said: “We ask God’s mercy and welcome home to Cardinal Desmond Connell, a man of deep faith, integrity of character, deep love for his people and priests, and a person all too conscious of his own weaknesses and inadequacies.”

Accompanying the two archbishops in receiving the remains at the pro-cathedral were Bishop Walsh and fellow Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin Ray Field, Bishop of Clonfert John Kirby, Vicar General in Dublin Msgr Paul Callan, Fr Damian McNeice who worked as spokesman for Cardinal Connell, and Canon Damian O’Reilly, administrator at the pro-cathedral.

Among those who carried the coffin to the altar were Msgr Dan O’Connor and Msgr John Wilson who worked at archbishop’s house with the late cardinal.

Symbols placed on his coffin included a pall, a book of the gospels, a cross, a stole and mitre.

Chief mourners were the late cardinal’s’s sister-in-law, Peggy; nephews John, Denis and Mark; grandnieces, grandnephews, a wide family circle and his carers.

The funeral Mass will be at 11am on Friday, with interment afterwards in the pro-cathedral crypt.