The Primate of All-Ireland has led tributes to the Bishop of Kilmore following his retirement.
Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Leo O’Reilly as Bishop of Kilmore on health grounds today, 31st December 2018. Bishop O’Reilly tendered his resignation following the advice of his doctor and in advance of his 75th birthday on 10th April 2019. A bishop is obliged by canon law to submit his resignation to the Pope by the time the bishop reaches 75 years of age.
The Primate of All-Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin, led tributes to Bishop O’Reilly, offering his “warm appreciation and very best wishes”.
“Bishop Leo has remained completely committed to the demands of his episcopal office and he has been unflinching in his service, not only to the Diocese of Kilmore, but also to his many national roles and responsibilities,” said Archbishop Martin.
“As President of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, I thank Bishop Leo for his insightful contributions to our discussions at the conference table, and also for his warmth and fraternal encouragement to me and to the other bishops.”
The archbishop said that Bishop O’Reilly’s ministry has been characterised by “a compassionate and pastoral instinct together with a real empathy for those who are struggling with life and faith”.
“He has been unafraid to speak from the heart, with courage and conviction, on a wide range of issues of concern to Church and society: on behalf of unborn and vulnerable human life, on child safeguarding, social inequality and justice and peace. His presence and wisdom will be greatly missed at the quarterly meetings of the Irish Bishops’ Conference.”
Over the past 20 years as bishop, Bishop O’Reilly has undertaken a variety of national responsibilities, including service on the Episcopal Commission for Liturgy and the Episcopal Council for Research & Development. However, Archbishop Martin insisted that his enduring legacy is his “huge contribution to Catholic education”.
“This springs from his vision of a family of Catholic schools across the country which are devoted to the education of the whole person and committed to tolerance, justice and the common good,” he said.
“Bishop Leo has remained steadfast in his determination to support the right of parents to have their children educated in accordance with their religious convictions.
“As Bishop Leo now retires I trust that he will be supported by the continued prayers and affection of the people, priests and religious of the Diocese of Kilmore,” the primate added. “I offer my prayers for Bishop Leo and wish him every happiness and improved health, away from the demands and worries of administration. Most of all I look forward to our continued friendship in the years ahead.”
In a pastoral letter to the priests and people of the Diocese of Kilmore, which was read at all Masses throughout the diocese this past weekend, Bishop O’Reilly admitted to having ‘mixed feelings’ about his retirement.
Explaining that he has had ‘frequent bouts of illness and hospitalisation’ over the years, Bishop O’Reilly also expressed his thanks to the priests, deacons, religious and lay people of the diocese.
‘I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your generosity and encouragement and above all for the support of your prayers,’ he said.
The Bishop of Limerick, Brendan Leahy, chair of the Commission for Catholic Education & Formation of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, also expressed his “best wishes and gratitude” to Bishop O’Reilly.
Noting that Bishop O’Reilly was also chair of the Commission for many years and that he had contributed generously to the Catholic Church’s engagement in education in Ireland, Bishop Leahy said: “Pope Francis has often said education is a ‘key mission’ for the Church. Bishop Leo has certainly been to the forefront in keeping that before us. Our best tribute to him now in retirement is to re-commit ourselves to progressing the many processes of renewal and joint co-operation that he initiated. May God grant Bishop Leo good health and peace in his retirement.”
Meanwhile, the Bishop of Ardagh & Clonmacnois, Francis Duffy, said Bishop O’Reilly would be “missed” by his diocese and all of the bishops.
“For over 20 years Bishop Leo brought exemplary leadership to the people, priests, deacons and religious of the Diocese of Kilmore. His calm, considered and inclusive approach generated a sense of care, direction and stability in Kilmore,” he said.
“As a former diocesan secretary working with Bishop Leo, I experienced at first hand his wisdom, guidance and good humour. Bishop Leo will be missed by those with whom he worked in his native Diocese of Kilmore as well as by his fellow bishops in the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
“I wish Bishop Leo good health and happiness in his retirement.”
Bishop O’Reilly, a native of Kill, Co Cavan, studied for the priesthood in Maynooth College and was ordained a priest in 1969. He was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Kilmore by St John Paul II on 12th November 1996. He was ordained bishop on 2nd February 1997 and was installed as Bishop of Kilmore in succession to Bishop Francis MacKiernan on 15th November 1998 in the Cathedral of Saint Patrick & Saint Felim, Cavan.
Picture: Bishop Leo O’Reilly. (Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference).