Fr Reynolds was a 'champion of the peace process'

Marie Louise McConville
01 December, 2015 01:00

A dedicated Redemptorist who worked tirelessly for peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland will be remembered as a "holy man who touched the lives of countless numbers."

Fr Gerry Reynolds died early yesterday aged 82 in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast following a short illness.

His unexpected passing has been met with shock around Ireland, as it came just days after he had celebrated Mass at Clonard, where he had been based for 30 years.

Born in Co Limerick, Fr Reynolds joined the Redemptorists and was ordained in the late fifties. He worked in the Republic until 1983, when his work brought him north and to Clonard in west Belfast.

He became heavily involved in peace and reconciliation, working to establish cross-community links by reaching out to other denominations.

Along with his friend and fellow priest, Fr Alec Reid, who died two years ago, Fr Reynolds also worked tirelessly to bring peace to Northern Ireland, holding discussions with members of the IRA.

At a time when it wasn't fashionable to do so, Fr Reynolds was said to have been instrumental in opening up dialogue between opposing sides, thanks to his inclusive spirit.

In 1999, Fr Reynolds was one of two clerics who were awarded the Pax Christi International Peace Prize

Fr Reynolds and his friend, Presbyterian minister Ken Newell were members of the cross-community Clonard-Fitzroy group set up to encourage peace in the north.

Tributes to Fr Reynolds were yesterday paid from across the political spectrum.

Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness described the Redemptorist as a "gentle peacemaker, a man of great humility and selflessness who did incredible work along with Fr Alec Reid in Clonard Monastery and with peacemakers from the Protestant Churches to help bring about a transformation in our society".

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams described Fr Reynolds as a "champion of the peace process".

"Along with Father Reid and Father Des Wilson he was central to efforts to develop a peace process years before it eventually took root and he believed totally in the primacy of dialogue," he said.

"He was a leader in ecumenical outreach and was instrumental in helping to facilitate discussions between members of the Protestant churches and Irish republicans".

SDLP assembly member Alex Attwood described Fr Reynolds as a "holy man who touched the lives of countless numbers".

"He brought people together," he said.

"Across our community, our churches and our conflict he worked quietly and relentlessly forging new relationships so that old differences could be resolved. He was forever working to make peace".

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt described Fr Reynolds as a "vocal and visible member of the faith community pushing politicians to stretch themselves for peace.

"Alongside the late Father Alec Reid and others he was instrumental in the quiet diplomacy that was one of the foundation stones that led to the Belfast Agreement in 1998".

Sandra Peake, from WAVE Trauma Centre, described Fr Reynolds as "a good friend".

"He was quietly supportive of the work and was particularly close to the families of the Disappeared. He will be missed by everyone who had the privilege to know him".

01 December, 2015 01:00 News

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