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Alec Reid administers last rites to David Howes, Belfast, 1988. Photo by David Cairns.

An Irish peacemaker

The Catholic priest was carrying an ultra-secret document that could mark a breakthrough in one of the world’s bloodiest conflicts. En route to deliver it, though, a humanitarian crisis forced him to stop: he tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent a mob from murdering an unarmed soldier. After giving the soldier last rites, he continued to carry his potent message—although he had to change the envelope, which had become soaked with blood.

Such a heroic story sounds almost as if it comes from a Catholic suspense novel, but it really did happen—in Belfast in 1988. The priest in question was Alec Reid of the Redemptorist Order, who died in November at the age of 82.

Although little known in North America, in Ireland itself he is lauded for his critical role in ending the decades-long struggle be­tween the (Catho­lic) Pro­visional Irish Repub­lican Army and the British government. His mighty example of Christian peacemaking cries out to be remembered.

 

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