Retired bishop pays tribute to John Hume: "one of my great heroes"Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
The retired Bishop of Derry, Dr Edward Daly, has welcomed the news of Pope Benedict’s decision to confer on John Hume the title of Knight Commander of the Equestrian Order of St Gregory the Great.
Speaking to ciNews, the Bishop, who retired in 1994 for health reasons, described the decision as “hugely deserved.”
“He has done so much for this city [Derry] and this country, going right back to when he set up the credit union here more than 50 years ago, and since then he has spent his life doing good and helping other people unselfishly,” Dr Daly said.
“His fingerprints can be clearly found on all the major political documents in the NI Peace Process,” he said of the former SDLP leader, who is recognised as one of the chief architects of the NI peace process, which culminated in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
Announcing the news of the papal knighthood, Derry’s diocesan administrator, Mgr Eamon Martin said it was being conferred on John Hume in recognition of his outstanding contribution to Catholic social teaching in the area of peace.
Mgr Martin said John Hume had worked tirelessly for peace and justice, “at considerable personal cost and risk,” and had testified to the, “fundamental dignity of human beings and the universal, inviolable and inalienable rights presented by Blessed John XXIII in Pacem in Terris.”
The announcement was made during the Derry diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes, which John Hume and his wife Pat were taking part in.
John Hume came to prominence in NI in the 1960s as a civil rights leader highlighting Catholic disadvantage in housing, education and a number of other areas. He served as MP for Foyle and a local MEP as well as an MLA. Referring to John Hume’s accolades, Bishop Edward Daly said he had been awarded the Martin Luther King prize, the Ghandi prize, and the Nobel Peace prize.
“I don’t know if there is anybody else on the planet who has received those three major awards.”
He added, “I think it is fitting that the Church should recognise the good he has done all his life.”
The retired bishop is a good friend of the former SDLP leader and said the politician is, “a daily Mass goer and very much a practising Catholic.” He recalled that John Hume gave away the entire cash element of the Nobel Peace Prize, amounting to £500,000, half of which was donated to the Salvation Army, the other half to the St Vincent de Paul Society.
“I have always admired John hugely; he is one of my great heroes. He is a very humble individual, I think he always put other people before himself at all times”, he said and added that he was, “delighted,” for John Hume’s wife Pat, “who is a wonderful person and a huge support to him and always has been.”
The Scroll of Conferral is expected to be presented to Mr Hume, who last year was named Ireland’s Greatest Irish person in a poll conducted by RTÉ, in Derry at a date yet to be announced.
By Sarah Mac Donald