Tears were shed as hundreds turned out to pay their last respects to Cardinal Cahal Daly as his remains were taken from St Peter’s Cathedral in west Belfast to his final resting place of Armagh.
The body of His Eminence Cardinal Daly, former Catholic Primate of All-Ireland, lay in state at St Peter’s over the weekend where thousands of the mourners came from far and away to reflect by his coffin and pay a final tribute.
Parishioners joined Cardinal Daly’s relatives, including his brother and sister, friends and fellow clergy as a moving service was held to mark his removal from the cathedral before his coffin was taken to St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh where he will lie until Requiem Mass is held tomorrow.
The retired cleric, born in Loughguile, Co Antrim, had a history of heart trouble and was rushed to Belfast City Hospital where he died on Thursday evening surrounded by family and friends.
A procession of over 60 clergy including priests, canons, bishops and cardinals, flanked the highly respected cardinal’s coffin as it left St Peter’s yesterday, following a serene service which was bathed in stain glass light and colour emanating around the altar.
The main celebrant was Dr Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor, who blessed the coffin with holy water and incense. His auxilaries were Bishop Anthony Farquhar and Bishop Donal McKeown. Also in attendance was Bishop Emeritus Patrick Walsh and Cardinal Desmond Connell from Dublin Archdiocese.
Rev Houston McKelvey from the Church of Ireland was also there and gave the scripture reading during the ceremony for the 92-year-old.
The psalms, Schola Cantorum, were sung by brothers Rev Fr Eugene and Martin O’Hagan, two-thirds of The Singing Priests.
One of the last things Cardinal Daly did before he fell ill was to have his photograph taken with the recording sensations.
A homily was delivered by Very Rev Edward O’Donnell, a former secretary to the Cardinal who is now a parish priest at St Anne’s Parish, Belfast. “He was widely acknowledged as a great scholar, but his scholarship was not a pursuit of learning for its own sake,” he said.
“It was rather the pursuit of a person. It was from his learning, and particularly from his reflection upon that learning, that Cardinal Daly's keen sense of pastoral responsibility sprang. He accepted the episcopacy, and lived it, in the firm belief that the Lord Jesus had given him a mission to carry out.”
Members of the public gathered in the cathedral for the service spoke of his significance in their own lives.
Attracta Clarke, a music teacher from St Patrick’s Primary School, Crossmaglen, said: “I was first introduced to Cardinal Daly when he came to confirm the children 20 years ago, I always had great respect for him.”
Another woman from Ardkeen Parish, Kircubbin, said: “I think he was a great man, with great integrity and during the Troubles he was very positive about any decisions that he had to make. He was a very firm man dedicated to his faith.”
Husband and wife, Sean and Alice Carolan from Ardee Co Louth, said: “We came here to pay respects. We never met him personally.
“We were in Belfast and we decided to come up here. He was a man of peace, he did a lot of work quietly and was always against violence, he was a hard worker and always seemed to be speaking out.”
Eddie and Ann Shevlin from Lisburn also came out to pay respects: “I think he was a prince among men. I met him in the past. He was a modest person with humility. He was a very nice man.”