Belfast priest described as 'true gentleman' following sudden death
THERE was shock and sadness last night following the sudden death of a popular north Belfast priest described as a "true gentleman".
Tributes have been paid to Fr James (Jim) Madden after he took ill on Wednesday and died.
The 61-year-old is understood to have been driving to visit his mother's grave in Carnmoney alongside his brother, who is visiting from the United States, when he suddenly became unwell.
It is believed his brother was able to take control of the car.
A former prison chaplain to the US army and later chaplain in jails in Northern Ireland, Fr Madden (61) previously served in St Mary's Parish in Belfast.
Just last year, he became administrator of Sacred Heart Parish in the city, where he was described as a "breath of fresh air".
A spokesman for the Diocese of Down and Connor paid tribute to Fr Madden and said Bishop Noel Treanor, who is in Lourdes, will be praying for him.
"Fr Jim Madden, a Norbertine Father has ministered in the Diocese of Down and Connor for many years," he said.
"As a prison chaplain, he has given outstanding service to prisoners, their families and the prison staff and he has also ministered within a number of parishes especially in the parish of Sacred Heart over the past year.
"He will be greatly missed by all throughout the diocese.
"Bishop Treanor is leading the diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes in these days. The diocese will be praying for Fr Jim Madden at the grotto in Lourdes."
Fr Tim Bartlett, who worked with Fr Madden at St Mary's Parish, said he was a "pleasure to work" with.
"He was from north Belfast and proud to be from north Belfast," said Fr Bartlett.
"He was a chaplain in the US army and served three tours of Iraq during the second Iraqi war. When he returned home, he was a prison chaplain before coming to St Mary's where he showed utter kindness to those most in need.
"Every week he would bring me receipts for clothes he had brought for the homeless and ex-prisoners.
"It was a pleasure to work alongside him and he was much loved by all in St Mary's. He was also utterly devoted to caring for his father every day."
Parishioners and people who knew Fr Madden have also written of their shock at his sudden death.
Sacred Heart Boys PS wrote on Facebook: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Fr James Madden, administrator of Sacred Heart Parish, who has passed away suddenly".
A parishioner also said she was "shocked and saddened at hearing of the sudden death" of Fr Madden, while another said his death was "the saddest news and a big loss to Sacred Heart Parish".
"His gentle and caring nature was a breath of fresh air and he will be greatly missed," she added.
Another parishioner said he was a "true gentleman and beautiful priest", while another said he was a "wonderful priest and we were so blessed to have had him in our parish".