The funeral Mass for John Hume was held today at St Eugene's Cathedral in Derry. Pool Photo by Stephen Latimer Photography and via RollingNews.ie.
By Irish Echo Staff
John Hume's life and legacy were honored today at his Requiem Mass in St. Eugene's Cathedral in Derry.
And even as mourners gathered to say a final farewell to the champion of the peace process and Nobel laureate, tributes continued to flow to a man who took to the world stage, but whose heart was always in the town he loved so well.
Tributes were paid by, among others, Pope Francis, former vice president Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Those attending the funeral, which was required to adhere to Covid-19 restrictions, were President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Northern Ireland's first and deputy first ministers Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill.
Thousands would have wished to pay their respects to Mr. Hume, but at the request of his widow, Pat, and the family to adhere to Covid-19 restrictions, only small numbers attended the ceremony, RTE reported.
The report stated that to comply with those measures one of Mr Hume's two sons, Aidan, did not return from the United States for the funeral but a poem written by him was read during the Mass.
John Hume Junior addressed the congregation saying that summing up their father's life in a few minutes was not an easy task.
He said his dad made them "laugh, dream, think and sometimes look at him and scratch our heads in amazement.
He told mourners that his father was a Derryman to his core.
"If dad were here today, in the fullness of his health, witnessing the current tensions in the world, he wouldn't waste the opportunity to say a few words. He'd talk about our common humanity, the need to respect diversity and difference, to protect and deepen democracy, to value education, and to place non-violence at the absolute centre.
"He might also stress the right to a living wage and a roof over your head, to decent healthcare and education."
He said that his father marrying his mother, Pat, was without doubt his greatest achievement. He said that she enabled him to reach his full potential.
One of Mr Hume's three daughters, Therese, and close political ally and friend, former SDLP leader Mark Durkan, provided the readings.
Pope Francis paid tribute to Mr. Hume, in a message read out at the mass by Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown, the RTE report added.
"His Holiness Pope Francis was saddened to learn of the death of John Hume, and sends the assurance of his prayers to his family and to all who mourn his loss.
"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.. We were looking for a giant and found a man whose life made all our lives bigger"
A message from the Dalai Lama was also read out.
"I was pleased to be able to meet John during one of my several visits to Northern Ireland," the Tibetan Buddhist leader, and also a Nobel laureate, said.
"Indeed, his deep conviction in the power of dialogue and negotiations in resolving the problem in his homeland has been an example of non-violent resolution of issues.
"It was his leadership and his faith in the power of negotiations that enabled the 1998 Good Friday Agreement to be reached. His steady persistence set an example for all of us to follow.
"Although my fellow Nobel laureate is no longer with us, his message about peace and nonviolence in the resolution of conflict, no matter how protracted or difficult it may seem to be, will long survive him. He lived a truly meaningful life." He focused on unity and peace and giving that dignity to every person."
Messages were also read from former president Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
A message from U2 singer Bono said: "We were looking for a giant and found a man whose life made all our lives bigger. We were looking for some superpowers and found clarity of thought, kindness and persistence. We were looking for revolution and found it in parish halls with tea and biscuits and late-night meetings under fluorescence. We were looking for a negotiator who understood that no-one wins unless everyone wins and that peace is the only victory. We were looking for joy and heard it in the song of a man who loved his town so well and his missus even more. We were looking for a great leader and found a great servant. We found John Hume."
Hume's favorite song, one he sang at every opportunity, "The Town I Loved So Well," was played by its composer and another son of Derry, Phil Coulter
Joe Biden praised Hume in a message relayed on social media.
"We have lost another great man of peace. John Hume committed his life to the principles of nonviolence, and through his faith, statesmanship, and perseverance, he helped bring Northern Ireland through the Troubles to a better tomorrow," Biden said.
"He saw the power of political leadership to bring a divided people together around a common purpose, without which the Good Friday Agreement would never have come to pass.
"Jill and I send our condolences to the entire Hume family. May his leadership and the example of his life continue to inspire future generations of peacemakers and patriots to create a world more grounded in civil rights, tolerance, equality, and democratic freedoms."
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Hume had displayed "integrity and courage" and played a "profoundly important role" in Northern Ireland’s transition from violence to peace.
"Throughout his career, John Hume believed that just and lasting political solutions could only be achieved through peaceful means, and as a central architect of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement he worked tirelessly to make these aspirations a reality," Pompeo said.
"Mr Hume’s influence extended far beyond the shores where he lived."
The Irish Consulate in New York has set up a virtual book of condolences for John Hume for those who might want to extend sympathies to his family. The book is open for signing until Wednesday, August 12. The link is: https://www.dfa.ie/irish-consulate/newyork/news-and-events/news-archive/book-of-condolences---john-hume.html