Monday 11 December 2017

An intellectual who stood up to men of violence

Cardinal Cahal Daly was fearless in his condemnation of terrorism, writes Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Cardinal Cahal Daly was the unlikely subject of a newspaper travel feature last year in which he described his favourite holiday. It was the early 1960s. Dr Daly was then a lecturer in scholastic philosophy in Queen's University Belfast, with a predilection for French theology. He was in his 50s, yet to become a bishop and a very committed francophile. Each summer he spent a month in France, three weeks studying and writing in Paris and a week exploring the countryside by train. "The year that was very special for me was when I travelled up the Valley of the Rhone from Lyons. France at that time was just recovering from the German occupation and the whole humiliating experience of the occupation," he said.

He travelled alone, on clapped-out trains and run-down buses, wearing a black suit and Roman collar. "I stayed normally in the hotels that were nearest to the train station. I had a typical French breakfast each day -- coffee and croissants. It was simple food. It was quite healthy and I ate quite well, mostly sandwiches at lunchtime, nothing elaborate."

In Lyons, he discussed the Second Vatican Council with Fr Henri de Lubac, one of its great theologians, and continued to Ars, home to St Jean Baptiste Vianney, the Cure of Ars. From there he took a coach to Assy, a village famous for its religious art, where he gazed at length at a painting of the face of Christ by George Rouald. "That was the first time I had seen it. It's a very touching and moving representation of the life of Christ," he recalled.

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