The Right Reverend Monsignor Ambrose Macaulay, who died last week and was buried on Friday, had a humility that belied his great intellect, a friend said.
The former parish priest of St Brigid's in south Belfast was 85.
A Requiem Mass was celebrated at the church on Friday.
Cardinal Sean Brady and Bishop of Down and Connor Dr Noel Treanor were among those who attended.
Born in Cushendall, he was one of a family of 10.
He attended St Malachy's College in Belfast before beginning his studies for the priesthood at Queen's University.
He completed a Licence in Theology at the Pontifical Lateran University in 1960 and a Doctorate in Ecclesiastical History at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, in 1963.
Mgr Ambrose was chaplain to Queen's University from 1970 to 1985, when he was appointed parish priest of St Anthony's, Willowfield, in east Belfast
In 1989 he moved to St Brigid's parish where he served until his retirement in 2010.
His 21 years at St Brigid's saw the building of a new church in 1994 and a parish centre in 2006.
St Malachy's College said Mgr Ambrose was a keen scholar and author of several books on Irish history: "He was never happier than when immersed in archives and special collections in Rome, London or Dublin.
"On several occasions in recent years he came back to his alma mater to give historical talks.
"He will be badly missed."
A keen sportsman, Mgr Ambrose was also honorary president of Queen's GFC. The club said his death brought them "profound sadness".
Former West Belfast SDLP MP Joe Hendron, a friend of the cleric, told the Irish News: "Fr Ambrose, as everybody called him, was an absolute gentleman and a lovely human being.
"You were struck by his modesty and humility but also by his insights and extensive intellect.
"He will be sadly missed by all those in his old parish."