Homily by Archbishop Dermot Clifford at the Thanksgiving Mass for Cardinal Brady at St John Laterans Basilica in Rome 26 November 2007

Cardinal Bradys contribution to peace in the North has been generously acknowledged by leaders across Church and State in Ireland, North and South.

During our four years as seminarians in Rome, we were often greeted by a woman who regularly begged on the streets, standing on the street-side on our way to class. Buon Giorno Padre she would say to us. We called her Signora Buon Giorno and we were flattered to be addressed as Padre (Father) as were only students and had yet to complete our studies and be ordained priests.

So we always gave her a modest amount of money. On the morning of our ordination, we explained to her that we were about to be ordained priests that day, and we gave her a more generous contribution. Arising from this conversation we were delayed and ended up arriving late in the Sacristy. All the other candidates for ordination were lined up and ready to process out. The Master of Ceremonies was annoyed when he saw us and he announced to one and all: Here come the Irish late as usual! This needled me so I informed him, in Latin, that a little bit of courtesy would not go astray on our ordination day. I went on to tell him that, while the Irish may be late at times, the Irish are always faithful: Hiberni aliquando tardi sed semper fideles. As we led the procession on to the altar, the Master of Ceremonies followed us and apologised. I accepted it saying that we were all on edge due to the importance of the occasion.

I have often wondered since that day why it was me and not Sen Brady who took up the defence of faith and fatherland, considering that he was a far bigger man and much better at Latin than I was! But he was calm and cool even then and he did not take offence as quickly as I did. These qualities have stood him in good stead over time and saw him, for example, sitting down in Stormont to comfortably converse with Dr Ian Paisley and also, in recent years, to receive and accept an invitation to the installation of the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Dr Ken Newell. This was the first time ever that a Catholic Primate has attended this ceremony.

Peace Process

Cardinal Bradys contribution to peace in the North has been generously acknowledged by leaders across Church and State in Ireland, North and South. This in itself is both unprecedented and most welcome. Obviously, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, himself, is aware of Cardinal Bradys efforts to consolidate peace in our country. Being unassuming, Cardinal Brady does not seek the limelight. Ever ready and never in the way, he lends a hand to all others who have been engaged in the peace process. The success of the Northern peace process has been described by the Holy Father as a model for the rest of the world in the area of conflict resolution.

Commenting on one of the readings at the Mass, Archbishop Clifford said that: A Christian community is Gods building. A Christian should be a builder, and the building should be firmly based on the one sure foundation of Jesus Christ. The Holy Father advised Cardinal Brady yesterday, during the Mass of the Rings in St Peters Basilica in the Vatican, that, as Cardinal, he is now to be a Master Builder of community and peace in his native country. We are all so fortunate that this immense task has been entrusted to the capable hands of Sen Brady.

Island of Saints and Scholars

At the time of our ordination in 1964, we assumed that our main task in the Church would be one of maintenance since we were soon to return to the Island of Saints and Scholars. Recently, Cardinal Brady stated that the Island of Saints and Scholars has given way to an Island of Stocks and Shares. The Saints and Scholars have taken quite a bashing in recent years: there has been a serious fall off in Mass attendance as well as in vocations to the priesthood and religious life. These changes have been accompanied by an increase in the secularisation of our society – an issue that the Holy Father specifically addressed over the weekend during the Consistory.

The challenge now facing the Irish Church, of which Cardinal Brady is leader, is one of major rebuilding. As he himself stated on Saturday in his address to the media after being created a Cardinal by the Holy Father: These have been difficult, at times traumatic years, for the Church in Ireland. Yet in the midst of these challenges, the overwhelming majority of priests and religious have continued to serve their people in humble patience, with quiet devotion and outstanding generosity I [also] have no hesitation in saying to the lay faithful of Ireland today: take heart! I strongly agree with the Cardinals timely call that the lay faithful play an increasing role now and into the future.

Not in any way wishing to talk down the economy, which is inevitably subject to business cycles, an ancient writer reminds us: In the day of prosperity, adversity is forgotten, and in the day of adversity, prosperity is not remembered.

Stocks and shares have come in for a battering over the last few weeks in what was described by one leading newspaper as a loveless Dublin stock market. Obviously this love affair between investors and the markets is cooling somewhat! Irish investors are nursing losses of over 8bn euro last week alone. While one hopes that our economy can turn around these huge losses, now might be the moment when the Island of Saints and Scholars begins to make a come back.

And how might this be achieved? A return to Sunday Mass is a good starting point. The Irish people were famous for their devotion to the Mass and their attendance, even during penal times, when such faithfulness involved high risk to livelihoods and even to life itself. A famous description, by the last Lord Lieutenant to Ireland, Augustine Birrell, was: It is the Mass that matters, it is the Mass that makes the difference, so hard to define, so subtle it is, yet so perceptible, between a Catholic country and a Protestant one, between Dublin and Edinburgh, between Harve and Cromer.

The gift of Christ

In this context I recall the appeal of the late Pope John Paul II, that: We rekindle our sense of amazement at the gift of the Eucharist which is not just any gift, rather it is the gift par excellence since it is the gift of Christ himself.

We can look forward to Cardinal Brady exercising his authority with the same gentleness and sure-touch that he displayed as Rector of the Irish College in Rome, in his Archdiocese of Armagh and as President of the Irish Bishops Conference. His sister Kitty said of him: Even after he became a bishop, he remained a priest. But will there be a change now that he is a Cardinal?! I doubt it very much! He will not guard his dignity he will rely on his dignity to guard him.

Should he run across Signora Buon Giorno, on his way back from the Lateran Basilica this evening, I am sure that he would not wish her to raise the bar from Buona Sera Padre to Buona Sera Eminenza! Knowing Cardinal Sen Brady as I do, the old greeting will more than suffice!

Finally, I join with Cardinal Bradys family, his colleagues and the Irish pilgrims here in Rome, who have been so proud and happy over the last three days in wishing him every success and blessing in the years ahead. On the day of the announcement on 17 October last, Cardinal Brady asked for our prayers and support for the challenges that lie ahead. We can assure him today that we will not forget this request.