Address by Bishop Leo O'Reilly
at the Mass in honour of Cardinal Seán Brady
in the Cathedral of SS. Patrick and Felim, Cavan
16 December 2007
Your Eminence, my dear people,
This is a historic occasion as we welcome the first Cavan man and the first priest of the diocese of Kilmore to be made a Cardinal back to his native place. I am very proud and happy as Bishop of Kilmore, to add my words of welcome to those already offered to Cardinal Seán at the beginning of Mass by the chairperson of our Diocesan Pastoral Council, Sr. Suzie Duffy, on his first official visit to the diocese since joining the College of Cardinals.
On behalf of the people of Kilmore I heartily congratulate you, Cardinal Seán, and wish you every blessing and success in your new role. This is a signal honour conferred on you by the Holy Father and it is a great honour too for your family, for your native parish of Laragh, and for the diocese of Kilmore. It is an honour that you richly deserve and which, as we know from experience, you will wear lightly. We can all be justifiably proud that one of our own has become a member of the highest Council of the Church.
It was a great privilege to be present in Rome for the Consistory a few weeks ago with a very large contingent from the diocese here and from Armagh and many other places. We had a new lightness in our hearts and a spring in our steps as we went from one celebration to the next. We had the very moving ceremony of the conferring of the red biretta in St. Peter's on the Saturday, the Mass of the Rings celebrated by the Holy Father and all the new Cardinals on the Sunday, and finally Mass celebrated by Cardinal Sean himself in the Basilica of St. John Lateran for the Irish community on Monday. We attended various receptions and basked in the reflected glory as we listened to the glowing tributes paid to our new Cardinal - led by our gracious President McAleese, who as usual spoke warmly and eloquently and obviously from the heart. We sensed your unease at such acclaim, and knew that only one as humble as yourself could safely be laden with such lavish praise.
Being Cardinal is an onerous task that will add to the already considerable burden of responsibilities that you carry. I am conscious that by inviting you here today we have helped to cram an already over-crowded diary. The calls on your time and energy will be even greater than before as you are called to serve not only your diocese and the Church in Ireland, but the universal Church as well. However, we know you are a man of deep faith and fervent prayer. You are also a man of great natural abilities and talents. You still retain the strength and stamina that was first seen on the sports fields around here and the commitment and skills that made you an exceptional administrator in the GAA. You had a distinguished academic career as a student in St. Patrick's College, a seminarian in Maynooth and a post-graduate in Canon Law in the Lateran University in Rome. Many here remember you as a great teacher in St. Patrick's College, Cavan, a distinguished rector of the Irish College in Rome, and a much loved pastor in the parish of Castletara.
The celebrations in Rome and the huge crowds that greeted you on your return are a sign of the impact you have made in the Archdiocese of Armagh in the years you've been there. Since you became Archbishop you have led the Irish Church and the Irish Bishops' Conference with great wisdom and courage. You did it during what has arguably been the most difficult period that the Church has experienced in the last two centuries. Your greatest talents are in your dealings with people. Your warmth, your personal interest and your sincerity, and your astonishing ability to remember names and faces, enable you to relate easily to people and to motivate and empower them. You lead by example and your humble and unassuming nature has broken down barriers of prejudice and opened the way for new initiatives both in the Church and in wider society. Your contribution to peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland has been universally acknowledged. Your timely interventions on the national stage in recent years have shown you to be a moral leader of great stature and have earned you the respect of all right-thinking people.
As we rejoice in your elevation to the College of Cardinals we also remember you in our prayers. We ask God to give you the grace, courage and strength to meet the demands of your new office and to continue to serve the people of God, now in the universal Church as well as in Ireland and the Archdiocese of Armagh, with the same generosity and distinction as you have done in the past.