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Bishop Francis Lagan buried at simple funeral in Strabane

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The bishop's coffin is carried

The bishop's coffin is carried

The bishop's coffin is carried

Just eight people were present at the funeral of retired Auxiliary Bishop of Derry Francis Lagan due to coronavirus rules - making for a simple ceremony that he would have approved of, mourners were told.

The sole celebrant of the Requiem Mass at Immaculate Conception Church in Strabane was Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown, who said he told him three days before he passed away that he wanted his funeral kept simple.

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Bishop Francis Lagan

Bishop Francis Lagan

Bishop Francis Lagan

In his homily Bishop McKeown explained the current restrictions on funerals would have suited Bishop Lagan.

He said: "Last Saturday I was in Bishop Francis' room in the hospital and his first concern was to talk about his funeral ceremony and he wrote: 'Keep the Mass simple'.

"For Bishop Francis the restrictions imposed by Covid would be ideal in enabling him to be buried with little fuss. In life and in death he was a simple man.

"If we have learned one thing from the Covid situation it is that funeral rituals are very important in helping us process the pain of loss.

"Many people have been unable to come to terms with the range of feelings that have to be dealt with after a death.

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A few mourners at the funeral of Dr Francis Lagan

A few mourners at the funeral of Dr Francis Lagan

A few mourners at the funeral of Dr Francis Lagan

"We wear this purple colour after a death because the loss of a loved one is painful.

"No matter how loved they were or how long they lived, their death touches the depths of who we are, a wound is left where a person has been plucked from us and it is healthy to recognise that pain.

"It is unhealthy to gloss over the pain of death with insipid words or casual gestures."

Bishop Lagan was ordained to the priesthood 60 years ago, during which time he served as an educator before taking up his first post in parish life as a curate in Strabane, and later in 1988 being made Auxiliary Bishop of Derry.

Bishop McKeown reminded the congregation of the "many changes and challenges" in the six decades since Bishop Lagan entered the life.

He said: "Maynooth could not know in advance about the effects of the Second Vatican Council or the terrible reality of the Troubles or the many sad stories that would emerge about the Church, locally and internationally.

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Bishop Donal McKeown after the Requiem Mass at the Immaculate Conception Church in Strabane

Bishop Donal McKeown after the Requiem Mass at the Immaculate Conception Church in Strabane

Bishop Donal McKeown after the Requiem Mass at the Immaculate Conception Church in Strabane

"We have all had to cope with the reality that we stumbled through the difficulties, often making mistakes, misreading situations, acting or failing to act appropriately.

"Though he did not talk to me about that, I do know that he was a conscientious man who would have acknowledged his mistakes and humbly asked for forgiveness.

"As with every funeral, we come not merely to celebrate a life and gloss over some parts of it, but to come before the Lord of mercy and forgiveness."

Bishop McKeown remarked how, although a bishop, Francis Lagan was also a much-loved member of a family.

And it was in his home place in Maghera he wished to be laid to rest.

He added: "We recognise the loss felt by the large extended Lagan family and by Bishop Francis' wide circle of faithful friends. He was much-loved by them.

"He wished to have this funeral Mass in Strabane, where he had lived for over 35 years, but he wanted to be buried in his native soil of Maghera."

Belfast Telegraph