Irish bishop of Bloody Sunday fame remembered for his peaceful witness

Bloody Sunday mural credit murielle29 via Flickr CC BY SA 20 CNA A mural in Derry depicting then-Father Daly leading a group carrying a victim on Bloody Sunday, Jan. 30, 1972. | murielle29 via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

After his death in hospital Monday morning, Bishop Emeritus Edward Daly of Derry's ministry advocating for peace during the Troubles of Northern Ireland is being remembered across Ireland.

Bishop Daly was well-known for waving a blood-stained white handkerchief over one of the victims of the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry, a 1972 incident in which British soldiers shot at unarmed civilians protesting the British internment of more than 300 suspected Irish Republican Army sympathizers, many of whom were innocent.

"Bishop Daly served, without any concern for himself, throughout the traumatic years of the Troubles, finding his ministry shaped by the experience of witnessing violence and its effects; through this dreadful period he always strove to preach the Gospel of the peace of Christ," Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry said Aug. 8.

The bishop said his predecessor had "provided an example of priestly ministry which was exemplary, inspired by service of God and the people he encountered. His ministry was characterised by his deep love of the people of this diocese, his dedicated visitation of parishes and his constant availability to others."

"The bishops, priests and people of the diocese were blessed to have such a dedicated and faithful priest among them."

Bishop Daly was born in 1933 and attended seminary at the Pontifical Irish College in Rome. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Derry in 1957, and consecrated its bishop in 1974. He remained Bishop of Derry until 1993, resigning at the age of 59 after suffering a stroke.

After his retirement he served as the Derry diocese's archivist, and as a hospice chaplain until this February, "a ministry in which he touched the lives of so many people," Bishop McKeown noted.

Bishop Daly was made famous during Bloody Sunday, Jan. 30, 1972, when as a priest at Derry's cathedral he carried a white handkerchief while leading a group of men carrying Jackie Duddy, a fatally-injured victim of the shooting by British soldiers. Duddy was one of 14 persons who were fatally shot during the protest march; Bishop Daly anointed him before his death.

His contribution to the peace process in Northern Ireland resulted in his being given Derry's Freedom of the City award in 2015, together with James Mehaffey, who was the Church of Ireland's bishop of Derry from 1980 to 2002.

Bishop Philip Boyce of Raphoe said the late bishop's "attention – at times heroic – to victims of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, for prisoners and their families, and for all who suffered in any way, was remarkable. Bishop Edward was a revered pastor and speaker whose words touched, and actions sustained, many people in Derry and across Ireland."

Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh commented that Bishop Daly "will be remembered as a fearless peace-builder - as exemplified by his courage on Bloody Sunday in Derry - and as a holy and humble faith leader."

He added that the late bishop's bravery was "apparent in his lived conviction that violence from any side during the Troubles was futile and could never be morally justified … He walked with his people in their struggles and joys and was most at home out in the streets, parishes and communities of his diocese."

Martin McGuinness, deputy first minister of Northern Ireland and a member of Sinn Féin, called Bishop Daly "a tremendous force for good" throughout Derry and recalled his having been "very critical of the IRA throughout the 25-year-old conflict."

Northern Ireland's first minister, Arlene Foster, a unionist, said Bishop Daly "made a significant contribution" during the Troubles "by arguing that violence should be rejected and by articulating a vision based on respect and tolerance."

Charles Flanagan, foreign minister of the Republic of Ireland, said the bishop was "first and foremost a man of peace … a key advocate for peace in Northern Ireland over a period of decades."

Bishop Daly also received attention for his 2011 memoir, in which he suggested that while "There is certainly an important and enduring place for celibate priesthood … I believe that there should also be a place in the modern Catholic Church for married priesthood."

Bishop Daly died at the age of 82. His body has been received at the Derry cathedral, where rosaries will be said for him three nights. His funeral Mass will be said on Thursday.

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