The sun broke through the clouds this afternoon as crowds gathered at St Eugene’s Cathedral for the Mass of Installation of the Most Reverend Donal McKeown as Bishop of Derry.
Flags blew in the breeze at the front of the historic Derry church as invited guests and clergy made their way inside the building for the solemn occasion.
Those in attendance included Cardinal Seán Brady and Archbishop Charles Brown, the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland.
And local clergy included Bishop Séamus Hegarty and Bishop Edward Daly, retired bishops of the Diocese of Derry, as well as Bishop Francis Lagan, the retired auxiliary bishop.
Outside the church Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness posed for a picture with the new Bishop while a sea of white lined the walkway to the church as more than 160 priests in their vestments made their way inside.
The guard of honour outside the church which included local scout groups and well wishing parishioners gave the city’s new Bishop a round of applause as he arrived at the church.
There was even a moment of humour when there was delay outside the church as the new Bishop waited for the big doors to open, with someone suggesting they were all waiting for Black Rod.
Speaking at the service Bishop McKeown spoke of those in society who feel discarded or beyond hope.
“Many people feel prisoners of their past while others seem to glide on, presumed masters of their future. That can happen because of neglect and abuse in its multiple forms; it can come from ill health or lack of satisfying chances to contribute to society; it can be reinforced by being labelled in education or social status; it can be born from the mistakes that they or others have made.”
He continued: “As Christians of various traditions, we have an opportunity and a duty to be sources of hope, especially when political sclerosis seems to have afflicted out body politic.I know that many politicians are embarrassed at the failure of the NI Assembly to focus on delivering the reforms that people need. But, as Churches, we cannot merely criticise them. We have the chance to play the part of critical friends, speaking on behalf of the many who feel that human need are being neglected in the service of political priorities. There is no more room in society for self-referential politics than there is for a Church that falls prey to ecclesial introversion.”
He said the diocese of Derry had opened its arms to him.
“I have felt a great welcome and much encouragement from priests, religious, parish pastoral councils - and not just because people wanted to be quick off the mark and get their parish or event into my diary.
“That was important for me as I set off into a new community, with its own traditions of faith and culture. It is important to pay tribute to my predecessors, Bishops Edward Daly and Seamus Hegarty both of them able supported by the faithful ministry of Bishop Francis Lagan.
“The last more than two years have been times of uncertainty and I have to acknowledge the work of Archbishop Eamon Martin and then of Francis Bradley. They had the burden of leadership thrust upon them by their colleagues and have laboured to ensure that the day to day workings of the diocese and parishes could continue.”
More in Tuesday’s Journal.