Northern Ireland

Peacemaker priest Fr Gerry Reynolds from Belfast's Clonard Monastery dies

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Media captionBBC News NI's Maggie Taggart looks back at Father Gerry Reynolds' role in Northern Ireland

Father Gerry Reynolds, a Redemptorist priest who worked for peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland, has died, aged 80.

Fr Reynolds was based at Clonard Monastery in west Belfast for more than 30 years.

The monastery was once described by Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams as "the cradle of the peace process".

With his friend and fellow priest Father Alex Reid, Fr Reynolds was deeply committed to brokering peace.

Fr Reid acted as a go-between for the IRA and politicians and was one of the witnesses who confirmed the decommissioning of IRA weapons.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Fr Reynolds spent more than 30 years as a priest at Clonard Monastery in west Belfast

He died two years ago.

Mr Adams described Fr Reynolds as "a champion of the peace process".

"He was central to efforts to develop a peace process years before it eventually took root," he said.

"I want to extend to his family, and to colleagues in the Redemptorist Order, and to his many friends my sincerest condolences."

Fr Reynolds was born in Limerick. His father died when he was six years old.

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Image caption Fr Reynolds was instrumental in opening up dialogue between opposing side during the Troubles

His mother was deeply religious and two of his uncles were Redemptorist priests.

He, too, found he had a vocation and was ordained a priest in 1960.

He worked in ministries in the Republic of Ireland until 1983, when he came to Clonard Monastery.

In an interview with journalist Sue Leonard in 2009 for the Catholic magazine Reality, he said that when he came to the city there was one challenge.

"It was: 'How do you stop the killing?'," he said.

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Image caption Fr Reynolds met Irish President Michael D Higgins who visited Clonard Monastery in 2012

Fr Reynolds was a committed ecumenist, reaching out to other churches was vital to him.

"He was instrumental in helping to facilitate discussions between members of the Protestant churches and Irish republicans," Mr Adams said.

Clonard is the focus of the Unity Pilgrims project, where parishioners attend not only Sunday Mass, but also visit Presbyterian, Methodist or Church of Ireland churches and the Clonard-Fitzroy Fellowship.

The links between Fitzroy Presbyterian Church and Clonard began in 1981 and were about encouraging mutual understanding and respect.

In latter years, Fr Reynolds gave leadership on the Clonard side.

Image copyright Rev Ken Newell
Image caption Fr Reynolds was awarded a peace prize jointly with former Presbyterian moderator Rev Ken Newell

In his interview with Reality, he said: "The people have changed since peace.

"But there is always work to be done. Every generation is like a continent to be won for Christ. That missionary task remains."

Fr Reynolds loved poetry, particularly Patrick Kavanagh, Seamus Heaney and Gerard Manley Hopkins.

He died on at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital on Monday after a short illness.

In a statement, the Redemptorist community at Clonard said: "He will be greatly missed by his Redemptorist confreres and colleagues, his family, friends, and the many people whose lives he touched through his ecumenical, peace and reconciliation ministries."

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