Tomás Ó Fiaich
Tomás Ó Fiaich
|Cardinal, Archbishop of Armagh
Primate of All Ireland
|Appointed||18 August 1977|
|Term ended||8 May 1990|
|Ordination||6 July 1948 (Priest)|
|Consecration||2 October 1977 (Archbishop)
by Gaetano Alibrandi
|Created Cardinal||30 June 1979|
|Born||3 November 1923
Cullyhanna, County Armagh, Northern Ireland.
|Died||8 May 1990 (aged 66)
Toulouse, Haute-Garonne, France
|Buried||St Patrick's Cathedral Cemetery, Armagh, Northern Ireland, UK|
|Coat of arms|
Tomás Séamus Ó Fiaich (3 November 1923 – 8 May 1990) was an Irish-born prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland from 1977 until his death. He was created a Cardinal in 1979. He was born in 1923 in Cullyhanna, and raised in Camlough, County Armagh, Northern Ireland, UK.
- 1 Priest, president to archbishop
- 2 Years as Archbishop of Armagh
- 3 Advised about Father Sean Fortune
- 4 Reordering of Armagh Cathedral
- 5 Sudden death
- 6 Cardinal Ó Fiaich Library
- 7 Ancient Order of Hibernians
- 8 Footnotes
- 9 References
- 10 Writings
- 11 External links
Priest, president to archbishop
Tomás Ó Fiaich (he began life as Thomas/Tom Fee but while a lecturer in St. Patrick's College Maynooth adopted the fully gaelicised version) was ordained a priest on 6 July 1948; he spent his first year of ordination as assistant priest in Clonfeacle parish. He undertook post-graduate studies in University College, Dublin, (1948–50), receiving an MA in early and medieval Irish history; he also studied at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, (1950–52), receiving a licentiate in historical sciences.
In 1952 he returned to Clonfeacle where he remained as assistant priest till following summer 1953 and his appointment to the faculty of St Patrick's College, Maynooth. Tomás Ó Fiaich was an academic and noted Irish language scholar, folklorist and historian in the Pontifical University in St Patrick's College, Maynooth, the National Seminary of Ireland. From 1959 to 1974 he was Professor of Modern Irish History at the college. In this capacity he suggested to Nollaig Ó Muraíle that he begin research on Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh and his works. He "was an inspired lecturer, an open and endearing man, who was loved by his students... Tomas O'Fiaich was my Good Samaritan"
He served as vice president of the college from 1970 to 1974 and was then appointed college president, a post that traditionally precedes appointment to an episcopal position in the Irish Church. He held this position until 1977.
Following the relatively early death from cancer of Cardinal William Conway in April 1977, Monsignor Ó Fiaich was appointed Archbishop of Armagh by Pope Paul VI on 18 August 1977. He was consecrated bishop on 2 October 1977. The principal consecrator was the papal nuncio Archbishop Gaetano Alibrandi; the principal co-consecrators were Bishop Francis Lenny, the auxiliary Bishop of Armagh, and Bishop William Philbin, the Bishop of Down and Connor. Pope John Paul II raised Ó Fiaich to the cardinalate on 30 June 1979; he was appointed Cardinal-Priest of S. Patrizio that same day.
Years as Archbishop of Armagh
Although Cardinal Ó Fiaich spent all of his formative years in academic circles, he proved to be an adept pastor. His tenure as Primate is often associated with the political strife rampant in Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 80s, along with the numerous episodes of child abuse and church governance. One incident often closely associated with the late Cardinal is the Hunger Strikes that occurred in 1981.
Papal visit 1979
The first major event in Ó Fiaich's cardinalate was the first ever papal visit to the Republic of Ireland from 29 September to 1 October 1979 by Pope John Paul II. The Pope celebrated Mass before one million people in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. His major speech calling on all the organisations that were prolonging The Troubles to end their activities was made in the Archdiocese of Armagh and was followed by a visit to the Marian Shrine at Knock, County Mayo. Cardinal Ó Fiaich was at the Pope's side during the entire visit.
Criticism by Irish politicians
Ó Fiaich took a more understanding, or at least a less critical, stance than other episcopal colleagues on militant republicanism in part because of his own upbringing in Crossmaglen. His approach, including visits to republican prisoners in the Maze, triggered many of these complaints but Ó Fiaich was always adamant that he had pastoral responsibilities and that the strict work of politics especially in an era of Margaret Thatcher as well Taoisigh such as Jack Lynch and Garret FitzGerald, was not his sphere. Unionists were also critical of Ó Fiaic. .
Some of Ó Fiaich's sternest critics were in the Irish media, notably The Sunday Independent (which had very anti-militant stance) and The Irish Times . He was, however, strongly defended on occasion by The Irish Press (a more nationalist paper) and An Phoblacht (which had a very pro-Sinn Féin, pro-IRA stance).
During the IRA hunger strikes Ó Fiaich was believed by many to have been a privately influential figure among militant republican supporters, credited with helping end the first hunger strike through direct contact with militant republicans in the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland. He visited the Maze and witnessed the "Dirty Protest" (where prisoners rubbed their faeces on the walls of their cells and left food to rot on cell floors, while just wearing blankets and refusing to wash, in protest at the withdrawal of Special Category Status from militant republican prisoners). He stated:
- "I was shocked at by the inhuman conditions . . . where over 300 prisoners are incarcerated. One would hardly allow an animal to remain in such conditions let alone a human being. The nearest approach to it that I have seen was the spectacle of hundreds of homeless people living in sewer pipes in the slums of Calcutta."
When hunger striker Raymond McCreesh died, Ó Fiaich said:
- "Raymond McCreesh was captured bearing arms at the age of 19 and sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment. I have no doubt that he would have never seen the inside of a jail but for the abnormal political situation. Who is entitled to label him a murderer or a suicide?"
While the Cardinal showed deep concern for the treatment of prisoners, he was equally critical of those who used violence to further the cause of Irish nationalism.
David Armstrong affair
In 1983, the Reverend David Armstrong, a Presbyterian minister, was forced to leave Limavady due to threats that followed his wishing Father Kevin Mullan's Catholic congregation "Happy Christmas". Cardinal Ó Fiaich gave the clergyman a cash donation to help him resettle in England.
Activities at the Vatican
During his tenure, Cardinal Ó Fiaich attended many synods and meetings of the Sacred College of Cardinals. The main meetings were
- First Plenary Assembly of the Sacred College of Cardinals, Vatican City, 5–9 November 1979
- World Synod of Bishops (Ordinary assembly), Vatican City, 26 September – 25 October 1980
- World Synod of Bishops (Ordinary assembly), Vatican City, 29 September – 28 October 1983
- World Synod of Bishops (Extraordinary assembly), Vatican City, 24 November – 8 December 1985
- World Synod of Bishops (Ordinary assembly), Vatican City, 1–30 October 1987
Advised about Father Sean Fortune
Cardinal Ó Fiaich was advised by Gemma Hearne, a housewife in County Wexford, about the misbehaviour of Father Seán Fortune, but took no action. Several years after Ó Fiaich's death the Catholic sexual abuse scandal in Ireland became a matter of public debate.
Reordering of Armagh Cathedral
Tomás Ó Fiaich
|Reference style||His Eminence|
|Spoken style||Your Eminence|
Ó Fiaich's re-ordering of the high Victorian neo-Gothic St. Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh proved very contentious. He had the highly decorated High Altar and rood screen replaced by a plain white Wicklow granite altar table.
Though Cardinal Ó Fiaich himself wrote approvingly of the new design for the sanctuary, many others were highly critical, arguing that the new sanctuary design defaced what had been a particularly fine nineteenth-century building, with the brutal simplicity of the white oval altar contrasting with the original features surviving. One critic, writing in The Sunday Independent, compared Ó Fiaich's altar to something from the set of Star Trek. The altar table installed during his time as Archbishop of Armagh was subsequently removed by Cardinal Seán Brady and a more classical replacement installed.
Ó Fiaich died of a heart attack on the evening of 8 May 1990 while leading the annual pilgrimage by the Archdiocese of Armagh to the Marian shrine of Lourdes in France. He had arrived in France the day before and had complained of feeling ill shortly after saying Mass at the grotto in the French town. He was rushed by helicopter to a hospital in Toulouse, 125 miles away, where he died. He was aged 66. He lay in state at the cathedral in Armagh, where thousands of people lined up to pay their respects.
Cardinal Ó Fiaich Library
The Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich Memorial Library, a registered charity, was officially opened in Armagh 8 May 1999 by the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Dr. Marjorie Mowlam. Named after the cardinal to honour his academic interests, it contains extensive archival material about Irish folklore, heritage and history. Cardinal Ó Fiaich's private papers covering his period as archbishop and cardinal are held by the library, as are those of nine previous Roman Catholic Archbishops of Armagh dating back to the mid-eighteenth century.
Ancient Order of Hibernians
The Ancient Order of Hibernians, an exclusively Roman Catholic organisation largely (though not exclusively) based in the USA, has named its No. 14 Division in Massachusetts and No. 7 Division in New York City after the late Cardinal.
- ^ Then Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Garret FitzGerald, on behalf of the Government, raised Alibrandi's position directly with Pope Paul VI and Cardinal Benelli at a meeting in 1975. (FitzGerald in The Irish Times)
- ^ Garret FitzGerald, All in a Life (Gill and Macmillan, 1991) p. 337.)
- ^ Statement by Tomás Cardinal Ó Fiaich, quoted in Tim Pat Coogan, The Troubles: Ireland's Ordeal 1966–1996 and the Search for Peace (Arrow, 1996)
- Miranda, Salvador. "Tomás Ó Fiaich". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Retrieved 2009-06-23.
- Early years of Cardinal O’Fiaich
- Website for St Patrick's College, Maynooth
- Irish Times Obituary
- Jordan, Anthony J. The Good Samaritan: memoir of a biographer. Westport Books ISBN 978-0-9524447-5-6; pp. 94 & 106–97
- Significant appointments of Tomás Ó Fiaich
- Ordination of Tomás Ó Fiaich to bishop
- S. Patrizio Cardinal Titular Church
- Comments from Basil Cardinal Hume
- These issues were explored in 1-hour TG4 documentary on 23 November 2011, "Tomás Ó Fiaich – Cúram agus Conspóid. This was advertised as a documentary "examining the life and controversial times of Tomás Ó Fiach. Produced and directed by Gearóid Ó Cairealláin, this hard-hitting Scannáin Aisling Ghéar documentary contrasts the two sides of the much loved people's prelate".
- Cardinal O’Fiaich visits the Maze
- Cardinal O’Fiaich criticises violence
-  (8 October 2008)
- Attendance at meetings in Vatican City
- RTE news, April 1st 2002; seen July 2011
- Funeral of Cardinal O’Fiaich
- Down and Connor
- Link to the Cardinal Tomas O'Fiaich Memorial Library and Archive
- Edmund O'Reilly, Archbishop of Armagh 1657–1669, in Father Luke Wadding Commemorative Volume, pp. 171–228 (Franciscan Fathers), 1957.
- Irish cultural influence in Europe, 6th to 12th century, Dublin, 1967.
- The Irish Bishops and The Conscription Issue 1918, in The Capuchin Annual, 1968.
- Columbanus in His Own Words (Dublin: Veritas Publications, 1974)
- Virgil's Irish background and departure for France, in Seanchas Ardmacha, ix (1985), pp. 301–17.
- Gaelscrínte san Eoraop. Dublin, 1986.
- Irish monks in Germany in the late Middle Ages, in The Church, Ireland and the Irish, (ed. W.J. Sheils and Diana Wood), Oxford, 1989; studies in Church history, xxv, pp. 89–104.
- The early period, in Rémonn Ó Muirí (ed.) Irish Church History Today, pp. 1–12, Armagh [1991?]
- Virgils Wededegand in Irland und sein Weg auf den Kontinent, in Virgil von Salzburg, pp. 17–26 (date unknown)
|Catholic Church titles|
William Cardinal Conway
|Archbishop of Armagh
and Primate of All Ireland
Cahal Cardinal Daly
William Cardinal Conway
|Cardinal-Priest of San Patrizio
Cahal Cardinal Daly