It is difficult to do full justice to the significance and achievements of his long, full and happy life but I believe, when fully assessed and appreciated, the legacy of Cardinal Cahal Daly to the ecclesiastical and civil history of Ireland will be seen as immense.
Having attended the Second Vatican Council as an expert theologian he worked untiringly for the renewal which it promoted. This was especially evident in his commitment to liturgical reform, renewal of religious life, the vocation of the lay faithful, catechetics, the social doctrine of the Church and unity among Christians. His writings in philosophy and theology were widely acclaimed and the influence of his keen intellect and energy on the work and publications of the Irish Bishops’ Conference was vast.
At a critical and troubled time in Irish history, he was prophetic in his conviction that lasting peace can only be built on justice, mutual understanding and respect for the traditions and aspirations of others. He was firm and courageous in his absolute rejection of violence as a means of achieving political ends. With leaders of other Christian traditions, his work for reconciliation helped to create the environment and principles upon which a lasting political accommodation was eventually reached.
In all of this, Cardinal Daly remained, first and foremost, a kind and gentle shepherd of God’s people who, on his appointment as Cardinal, in June 1991, prayed that he might never lose the sense of enthusiasm for the following of Christ and for his Gospel. That was never likely to happen for I knew him as a man of deep prayer and unshakable faith. In the words of one of his favourite verses from St. Paul, he was resolute in his belief that God’s power ‘working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask for or imagine’ (Ephesians 3:20-21).
A natural teacher, a consummate scholar, a kind friend and a faithful and holy priest, Cardinal Daly will be missed by those whose lives he graced. Our country has lost one of its brightest lights and most able sons, who played a vital role in promoting reconciliation, peace and justice at a critical moment in our history. His total commitment to the service and good of others was rooted in the central conviction of his life, captured by the words of his Episcopal motto – ‘Jesus Christ is the same today as he was yesterday and as he will be forever’ (Hebrews 13:8).
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace. Amen.