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Tributes paid to peacemaker Fr. Gerry Reynolds

Fr. Gerry Reynolds

By Anthony Neeson

Tributes are being paid this week to Belfast priest, Fr. Gerry Reynolds, a pivotal figure in the formative days of the Northern Ireland peace process.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams was among those who paid tribute to a man he dubbed a “champion of the peace process.”

The Redemptorist priest, who was based at Clonard Monastery near Belfast's Falls Road, died on Monday following a short illness.

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During the early days of the peace process, and before the IRA ceasefire, Clonard hosted secret meetings that would eventually pave the way to an end to violence.

Mr. Adams said: “Fr Reynolds was a champion of the peace process. Along with Fr. (Alec) Reid and Fr. 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.

“Fr. Reynolds was part of the Clonard Church Ministry, a special peace-making ministry within the Redemptorist Order. It was based on the historic tradition of the church’s providing sanctuary and was focused on the importance of compassion as ‘the first principle of all human relationships.’”
The Louth TD also said Fr. Reynolds “embraced the importance of dialogue with other churches.”

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

“I want to extend to his family, and to colleagues in the Redemptorist Order, and to his many friends my sincerest condolences.”

SDLP West Belfast MLA, Alex Attwood, described Fr. Reynolds as “a holy man who touched the lives of countless numbers.”

“He brought people together. Across our community, our churches and our conflict he worked quietly and relentlessly forging new relationships so that old differences could be resolved,” Attwood said.

“He was forever working to make peace. His special work with Fr. Alec Reid was one example of this. His life was defined by such work, seeking out the opportunity for good to prevail.

“He was devoted to the monastery, the people of Clonard and all of West Belfast. He brought Christian witness into private lives and public spaces.”