‘Humble and gentle’ Bishop Michael Russell is laid to rest

Eoin Murphy

Bishop William Lee of Waterford and Lismore reads at the graveside of the late Bishop Michael Russell following Requiem Mass at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity yesterday (Thursday). Picture includes members of the Russell family, Cardinal Sean Brady, Dermot Clifford, Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, Canon Frank Hopkins, Rev Michael Twomey (Deacon, left of Bishop Lee) and Fr Paul Murphy PP (to the right). | Photo: Eoin Murphy

Retired Bishop of Waterford Michael Russell was laid to rest in the grounds of the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity following his Requiem Mass in Waterford Thursday afternoon.

From a family of 10 in Loughmore, Thurles, County Tipperary, the late Bishop’s surviving brothers Conor and Sean were the chief mourners, with sisters-in-law Madge and Maura in attendance, along with nephews and nieces.

His successor William Lee was the chief celebrant at the Mass, with Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop Dermot Clifford (Cashel and Emly) and Bishop John Magee (Cloyne) among the clergy whom assisted.

Priests from across the diocese and beyond attended, while the Church of Ireland, the Saint Patrick’s United Methodist/Presbyterian Church and the Society of Friends were also represented at the ceremony.

“The word ‘gentle’ has been used so often in recent days,” said Bishop Lee during his Homily. “His Episcopal motto ‘Humilitate et Lenitate’ – humility and gentleness was well chosen.”

During a wide ranging address reflecting on his good friend’s long life of service to the Church, Bishop Lee referred to Dr Russell’s support for care of the aged, Credit Unions and the development of community centres.

He also spoke of Dr Russell’s grá for the GAA. “In his youth, he played minor hurling for Tipperary and was a former Chairman of the Mid Tipperary Board,” said Bishop Lee. “He loved a good hurling match and often recalled with pleasure the great contests down through the years.”

Pope Benedict XVI’s sympathies were relayed to Waterford through a message from Cardinal Tascisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State.

“The Holy Father was saddened to learn of the death of Bishop Michael Russell and he has asked me to send his condolences to you and to the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Diocese,” stated part of the message read by Bishop Lee.

President McAleese was represented by her Aide de Camp, Captain Murt Larkin, while Commandant Michael Foley represented the Taoiseach Mr Cowen.

Minister Martin Cullen represented the Government, while members of Waterford City Council were led by Mayor Jack Walsh, who delivered the first reading.

County Mayor Tom Higgins was also present, as were members of Tipperary’s local authorities, Senators Brendan Kenneally and Paudie Coffey, along with former ministers Michael Smith and Michael Kennedy.

Said Bishop Lee: “The poet puts our faith so beautifully: ‘Death is not extinguishing the light, but putting out the lamp because the dawn has come’. Bishop Russell showed us an example of how to face death with courage and dignity.”

Bishop Lee gave thanks for Michael Russell’s life, “his lifestyle, for his humility and cheerfulness, for his faith, for his good sense [and] for the lessons we learned from him about living well and dying well”.

Dr Russell (88), who passed away at Waterford Regional Hospital on Monday morning, was a popular and well-respected figure who led the Catholic Church in this diocese from 1965 to 1993.

“We are certainly the better for having known him,” the Bishop concluded.



Dermot Keyes

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