Belfast bids farewell to peace hero
MOURNERS at the funeral of Fr Alec Reid (82), the Catholic priest who carried secret letters between the IRA and politicians, heard that he was a humble peacemaker who worked for common ground when others had hardened their hearts.
The cleric died in a Dublin hospital last week and his funeral was held at Clonard Church, amid the winding streets of west Belfast, where he had preached his ministry of peace.
Former President Mary McAleese said: "Into this tightly bound world of vanities, where people refused to talk to other people because of a long list of becauses, where violence sharpened tongues and hardened hearts, there came the rather quiet and humble figure of Al Reid.
"He saw space for hope to grow where others saw impregnable citadels.
"He saw ways to soften hearts, he found words to persuade the estranged to talk to one another, to take a chance on one another, to find common ground. He believed that we were better than we had become."
Fr Michael Kelleher observed: "Fr Alec's second lesson from the streets was that the dignity of the human person is the supreme moral value in all human affairs."
The former SDLP leader John Hume and Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams were among hundreds attending the funeral. Also present were Stormont Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt and senior Methodist clergyman the Reverend Harold Good.
Fr Kelleher told of Fr Reid meeting the queen after an invitation from Mrs McAleese.
"He gave the thumbs up to Her Majesty -- I'm not sure that anybody had ever done that to Her Majesty before. It's a picture I'll remember of Fr Alec."
Mrs McAleese said: "In this world of people barricaded against each other by contempt, fear and hatred, there often seemed precious little space for a culture of Christian love to flourish, for we Christians had mostly decided to love only our own denomination and to remain estranged from those who were not our very own," she added.
At the weekend a bomb partially exploded near a shopping centre, part of a surge by dissident republicans.
Catholic bishop Noel Treanor said some people were still locked in self-destructive conflict.
"In commending this artisan of peace to the mercy of God, we call on that small minority of people who continue to believe that violence, destruction and fear have any part in human affairs to think again," he added.