(Source: CD/Robin Gomes, Vatican News)

Pope Francis has expressed his condolences at the death of John Hume, a leading Northern Ireland politician regarded as one of the architects of the Northern Ireland peace process.

Hume, who along with David Trimble was awarded the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to forge a peaceful solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland, died on Monday in a Londonderry nursing home following a long period of illness. He was 83.

“His Holiness Pope Francis was saddened to learn of the death of Mr. John Hume, and sends the assurance of his prayers to his family and to all who mourn his loss,” Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin wrote in a condolence message on behalf of the Pope.

Promoter of dialogue, reconciliation and peace 

“Mindful of the Christian faith that inspired John Hume’s untiring efforts to promote dialogue, reconciliation and peace among the people of Northern Ireland, His Holiness commends his noble soul to the loving mercy of Almighty God,” the cardinal wrote.

As a pledge of consolation and strength in Christ the Lord, Cardinal Parolin wrote, the Holy Father imparts his Apostolic Blessing to those mourning him.

The Pope’s message was read during the funeral Mass on Wednesday in the Cathedral of St. Eugene in Derry, where Hume was born. The funeral rites, in strict compliance with the COVID-19 health regulations, were broadcast live on television.

Good of others

The Primate of Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh and Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry presided over the funeral Mass.

In his introductory words, Bishop McKeown recalled Hume saying, “he did not just dream of peace”.

“His life’s vocation was to be a peacemaker for the good of others. Because of his past we can face the future.”

Father Paul Farren, Administrator of the Cathedral of St. Eugene, who delivered the homily, highlighted the great attention and care that Hume always paid to his neighbour.

“He never looked the other way, he never kept his distance, but he always showed compassion, letting himself be involved and giving dignity to many people,” said Father Farren.

Hume, he said, did not focus on differences and division, but on unity and peace.

Among those who have sent their condolences are Bono, the leader of the Irish musical group U2, and the Dalai Lama.

“One of the greatest peacemakers and champions of social justice of our time”

In a statement August 3, Bishop McKeown remembered Hume as “one of the greatest peacemakers and champions of social justice of our time.”

“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,” the Bishop of Derry wrote.

Archbishop Martin honoured Hume as “a paragon of peace” and “a giant of a statesman whose legacy of unstinting service to the Common Good is internationally acclaimed,” while Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor thanked the politician for uniquely shaping “a new and prophetic political narrative which enabled the decommissioning and disarmament of weapons and generated an infrastructure for a peace process that led to the Good Friday Agreement, and the foundations of a new politics that is his lasting legacy.”

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.