LEICESTER, United Kingdom – John Hume was “a person of vision, who lifts us up to see and think beyond the confines of our own, much narrower, perspectives,” according to the Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh.
Hume, who died Aug. 3 at the age of 83, was principal architect of Northern Ireland’s 1998 Good Friday peace agreement.
The Northern Ireland politician was the leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, the moderate voice for the Catholic minority in the North. He and the Protestant leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, David Trimble, shared the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to end the Troubles, which had led to the deaths of over 3,500 people.
Martin said a “great sadness … ripples out to every corner of Ireland and all around the world where the mere mention of the name of John Hume evokes admiration, respect and thanksgiving for a life dedicated to peace and social justice,” and he remembered Hume has “a paragon of peace, a giant of a statesman whose legacy of unstinting service to the Common Good is internationally acclaimed, even though it is still perhaps only unfolding.”
The Armagh archbishop said that when he grew up in Derry – a flashpoint during the Troubles Hume was a hero and role model that “hugely influenced” him.
“When I went to study for the priesthood at Maynooth I was happy to know that he too had once been a seminarian for the Diocese of Derry. But John’s vocation was to serve God and his community as a layman, and he totally devoted his energies to that vocation – to relieving poverty, challenging injustice and providing decent living conditions for all,” Martin said.
“Later, as a priest working in Derry, I came to know John as a man whose convictions were rooted in a deep faith, in prayer and practical Christianity. I was honored to announce eight years ago that Pope Benedict XVI had conferred on him a papal knighthood in recognition of his commitment to peace, reconciliation, non-violence and social justice. John put Catholic Social Teaching into practice – sometimes at great personal cost and risk – working ceaselessly for a process of reconciliation through which the dignity of every human person is recognised and upheld,” he continued.
Although a Nationalist he supported a united Ireland, Hume believed in working with Northern Ireland’s Protestant majority, most of whom were Unionists wishing to stay a part of the United Kingdom. He also wanted to improve relations between London and Dublin. The Good Friday Agreement established self-government for Northern Ireland and ensured both Protestants and Catholics shared power.
Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry said Hume “will be remembered as one of the great local and world figures of his generation.”
“While he strode the world stage, he remained firmly rooted in his local city. It was the specific circumstances that prevailed here in his native city that helped develop his vision for the future. His firsthand experience of injustice and violence and his broad European vision emboldened him to persevere in building bridges and friendships,” McKeown said.
“He dedicated his life to the welfare of this community, at no small cost to himself. His name became a byword for dedication to the cause of peace, whatever the obstacles or criticisms,” he added.
Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor, the diocese that covers Belfast, praised Hume’s “deep commitment to the electorate.” Treanor was working in Brussels with the European bishops’ commission when Hume was serving in the European Parliament.
“Motivated by a strong personal faith and responding to the needs of the community, John was a champion of human rights,” Treanor said. “He actively sought to protect the most vulnerable across society. He exercised and exemplified a model of civic leadership through dialogue. John had a visionary capacity to view the local political and societal challenges through the wider prism of human dignity and International partnership.”
Anglican Archbishop John McDowell, the Anglican Archbishop Armagh said Hume “will be remembered not only as a significant politician in Ireland but also for his unambiguous dedication to making political change happen by purely peaceful means.”
“Because of the manner of his approach, this required enormous patience and sympathetic understanding and those of us who are the beneficiaries of his legacy can only regret his passing while, at the same time, being thankful for his gargantuan efforts in the cause of peace and good relations,” he said.
Hume’s funeral will take place at Derry Cathedral on Aug. 5.
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