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Pope sends tribute to 'generous service' of Peter Sutherland at Dublin funeral


Pallbearers carry the coffin of Peter Sutherland from the church in Donnybrook

Pallbearers carry the coffin of Peter Sutherland from the church in Donnybrook

Pallbearers carry the coffin of Peter Sutherland from the church in Donnybrook

Pope Francis has paid tribute to former attorney general Peter Sutherland for his work on the migrant crisis.

A message from the pontiff was read a t Mr Sutherland's funeral in Dublin, where mourners were told of his passionate devotion to refugees, his hidden generosity and his moral compass.

Mr Sutherland died on Sunday morning at the age of 71 following a long illness.

A career in the worlds of law, government and business culminated in his appointment as the UN's special representative on migration, a role he held as the migrant and refugee crisis in the Mediterranean reached unprecedented levels.

Mr Sutherland was also an adviser to the Holy See.

The Pope extended his condolences in a message to the family through his secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

"With deep appreciation for Mr Sutherland's dedicated assistance to the Holy See, mindful of his many years generous service to the international community, especially in the support of migrants, His Holiness entrusts his soul to the merciful love of our heavenly father," the letter said.

Pope Francis also offered mourners his blessing.

Hundreds of mourners joined Mr Sutherland's widow Maruja, sons Shane and Ian, daughter Natalia, other relatives and a list of dignitaries, political and business figures for the mass in the Church of the Sacred Heart, Donnybrook.

Fr Noel Barber, a teacher at Gonzaga College where Mr Sutherland went to school in the 1960s, paid a glowing tribute.

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"This may seem strange to say of one who had Peter's ambition, wealth, prestige and power in high places. Yet it was his faith and the practice of his faith that gave him his moral compass," he said.

Fr Barber said Mr Sutherland carried out countless acts of hidden generosity with his extensive philanthropy known to relatively few people.

"Then there was his passionate devotion to the cause of refugees that the Vatican and the UN called on and that passion came from a deep religious consciousness," the priest said.

"He promoted globalisation because he saw it was a means of lifting billions out of grim poverty and of countering a narrow nationalism, which avoids global responsibility.

"His enthusiasm for the real benefits of globalisation may indeed have blurred his view of its downside but he rightly emphasised its benefit to the poorer countries of the world."

Among those paying respects were President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, former taoiseach Enda Kenny, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, businessman Denis O'Brien and former Ireland rugby captain Keith Wood.

Judge Garrett Sheehan, a lifelong friend, described Mr Sutherland as a proud Irishman, European and an internationalist whose career was fulfilled in his UN role.

"No longer on any board he found his truest and most complete voice in this work," he told mourners.

"In a sense he no longer belonged to himself. He was constantly searching for new ways to promote the cause of migrants, calling always on us Europeans to try and do that bit more.

"This was what he was called to do and he responded generously and fully."

Mr Sutherland studied at University College Dublin and worked as a barrister for more than a decade before being appointed attorney general in 1981, aged 35, in the Fine Gael-Labour coalition, the first of two spells in the job.

He was described in some circles as a "father of globalisation", having promoted the ideas of free trade and competition after being appointed to the European Commission and subsequently establishing the World Trade Organisation in the 1990s.

Mr Sutherland was also forthright in delivering his opinions. As attorney general, he clashed with the government in 1983 over the wording of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, a contentious issue to this day.

In business he had roles as non-executive chairman of Goldman Sachs and BP and chairman of Allied Irish Banks.

Mr Sutherland was buried in Kilternan Cemetery.

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