Tribute for 'model peacemaker' priest at funeral mass
A Catholic priest who carried secret letters between the IRA and politicians believed dialogue was the most powerful way of resolving conflict, mourners at his funeral Mass were told.
Father Alec Reid, 82, died in a Dublin hospital last week.
As well as his efforts to end the 30-year Troubles, the Redemptorist tried to save two soldiers shot dead in West Belfast by the IRA in 1988 after they became trapped at a republican funeral and a photo of him praying over the dying troops became world famous.
His funeral was held at Clonard in West Belfast.
Fr Michael Kelleher said: "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."
He added: "To be real and permanent, peace, within and between every human society has to be based at all times on the practice of due respect for human dignity."
The cleric relayed messages between Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and the leader of non-violent nationalism, the SDLP's John Hume, which led to the peace process, paramilitary ceasefires in 1994 and the Good Friday peace agreement four years later.
Fr Kelleher said everything Fr Reid learned about peace-making was gleaned from the streets of Belfast. But he was equally comfortable in the most august company, giving the thumbs up to the Queen after former Irish president Mary McAleese invited him to meet her.
Fr Kelleher added: "For Fr Alec dialogue involved face to face communication between people who are in conflict with each other for reasons that have to do with historical, political or cultural differences that are causing death and destruction on the streets.
"Dialogue was a search for the common ground that would form the basis of an agreement between them."
He said: "Dialogue is the most powerful and, at the end of the day, the only effective dynamic of peaceful and democratic conflict resolution."
Thousands of Protestants, Catholics, soldiers and police were killed during the conflict.
Dissident republicans opposed to the peace process have launched a pre-Christmas "surge" in activity with a partially exploded car bomb at a Belfast shopping centre the latest near miss.
The police have responded with check points and more frequent patrols.