Catholic priest praises ‘courage’ of Rev. David Latimer
Rev. David Latimer’s peacemaking efforts have been hailed by a senior Catholic churchman in Derry.
Waterside priest Father Michael Canny applauded the retiring Presbyterian cleric’s “inner strength and courage” in the face of opposition and hostility from members of his own city centre church.
“David, you have made a big contribution towards enabling many people to reflect on not us and them but, rather, to realise that we are all one,” Rev. Canny told a packed First Derry Church on Sunday at a service marking Dr. Latimer’s retirement after 32 years ministry in Derry.
Rev. Canny applauded Dr Latimer’s decision in the late 1980s to “take a different path” and, in particular, reaching out to the late Martin McGuinness.
He added: “You realised that, to win, which means to win over, required taking a different route... For you, personally, the decisions you took, the journey you embarked on, came at a price. There must have been many times when you and Margaret [Rev. Latimer’s wife] had your Gethsemanies - your agony in the garden moments.
“When church members and friends deserted you, a tremendous inner strength must have been required to enable you to continue. It is that inner strength, courage and stick-at-it-ness in building friendships, despite many obstacles, that we are celebrating here today.”
Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor Michaela Boyle, also addressed Sunday’s service and she spoke of Rev. Latimer’s passion for his vocation and his ability to reach out across the political, religious, social and cultural divide.
“He has successfully changed perceptions and mindsets by showing us the benefits of taking risks and extending the hand of friendship, love and empathy across our communities,” she said.
“David Latimer has taken enormous risks during his career. Not all of them welcomed warmly by everyone but he has remained strong and steadfast in his conviction, continuing to extend the hand of friendship to all, never judging people on their social, cultural or religious background.
“His friendship with my former party colleague and leader Martin McGuinness was a genuine one that showed us all what real faith and compassion is about. His ability to reach out is what good Christianity is about and is a lesson to all of us on how we can put our preconceptions and prejudices aside to move forward to a more inclusive and accepting society... I want to thank you, David, for being part of our lives and assure you that you will go down in history for your significant contribution to peace and a better future for the next generation.”