Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 30 October 2014

Daly's insight into the enduring power of Christian life

When Edward Daly's new autobiography of his life as the Roman Catholic Bishop of Derry was published, he received widespread publicity for his views on priestly celibacy.

In the penultimate chapter he asked if it was not time for the Catholic Church to make a vocation to the priesthood possible and accessible for more men.

He added: "There is certainly an important and enduring place for celibate priesthood. But I believe that there should also be a place in the modern Catholic Church for a married priesthood and for men who do not wish to commit themselves to celibacy."

Given the respect in which Bishop Daly is held, it was inevitable that such a statement would make big headlines. Indeed Dr Daly was somewhat bemused that so much attention had been given to a passage of some 200 words in a book of more than 100,000 words.

The resultant publicity was the kind which all authors would have dreamed of, but the autobiography shows that there was much more to Edward Daly than his comments about celibacy.

It is a well-written book about the life of a Catholic bishop in the round, and one of the surprising insights for the non-Roman Catholic reader was the virtual lack of any formal training for a priest catapulted into the role of Catholic Bishop in the Ireland of the 1970s.

Typically, Edward Daly made the best of it, and he found himself in a diocese and city which had some of the greatest challenges of any during the Northern Ireland troubles, and by implication of any others in the world.

The valuable insights of Dr Daly in this book are his own, and they will not find universal agreement in Northern Ireland, but without doubt he faced up to his challenges with courage and integrity. However Dr Daly was more than a "Troubles" Bishop, and his ministry in later years as a chaplain to the Foyle Hospice has been one of great dedication, Christian outreach and love for his fellow human beings.

This book makes a contribution to the complex background to the Troubles but above all it is a witness to the depth and the power of a Christian life, well-lived.

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