Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

New Cardinal pointing way to a shared future

The elevation of Sean Brady to Cardinal has been regarded by observers as a well-deserved honour. Religion Correspondent Alf McCreary traces the background of the quiet man who rose to lead the Catholic Church in Ireland

The appointment of the Catholic Archbishop of Armagh as a Cardinal will be widely acclaimed in Church circles across the border.

A comment by Lord Eames, the former Church of Ireland Primate, that Dr Brady's honour is "well deserved", will be echoed by other Church leaders and colleagues who have worked closely with him and who know him well.

Cardinal Brady's style has been low key but he is determined to work for the best interests of his Church and also to promote strong links with other Church leaders and denominations.

Earlier in his career he was head of the Irish College in Rome where he fostered contacts with key Vatican figures.

On his return to Ireland, he became a parish priest in Co Cavan.

However, much to the surprise of everyone, himself included, he was whisked from the relative obscurity of Cavan to succeed Cardinal Cahal Daly as Catholic Primate and Archbishop of Armagh.

He found it a challenge to follow such an experienced and urbane primate as Cardinal Daly, and the first period of Dr Brady's tenure was characterised by a shyness and at times hesitant style in dealing with the media on contentious issues.

In private, however, he won the respect and friendship of many people with his warmth and integrity in the practice of his faith.

As Primate he has had to lead his Church through difficult times, including the scandal of paedophile priests but his gritty determination to stamp out the scourge has won back some confidence in the church's attitude towards such cases.

Cardinal Brady has also made a strong defence of Catholic schools at a time of rapid educational change.

He has worked hard at improving ecumenical relations and with the retirement of Lord Eames last December, Cardinal Brady is now the most experienced Church leader in Ireland.

Politically, Cardinal Brady has worked hard to solidify the peace process and one of the more significant developments was to lead a delegation of senior clergy to meet the Rev Ian Paisley and senior DUP members at Stormont for a clear but friendly exchange of views.

In recent months, Cardinal Brady has made a series of major speeches outlining basic Christian values at a time of increasing secularisation in Ireland and earlier this year he led all his bishops to meet Pope Benedict XVI and some senior Vatican officials in Rome.

It is significant also that he and his colleagues are still hoping that the Pope will accept their long-standing invitation to visit Ireland.

Dr Brady's appointment as Cardinal is timely. Some years ago he was thought to have been passed over by the Vatican in favour of Cardinal Desmond Connell of Dublin, and it would have been disappointing if this had gone to Dublin yet again.

There is speculation that the able Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmud Martin, will be recalled to Rome to a higher position.

In the meantime, Ireland is now well supplied with no fewer than three Cardinals, including Cardinals Daly and Connell, who are now retired.

There is no doubt however, that the latest honour for Cardinal Brady will underline his well earned authority and stature within the Church at home and abroad.

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