A kind and gentle soul, a great churchman and a fine friend featured among the tributes offered to Michael Russell (88), the retired Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, who died on Monday morning.

Bishop Russell, who passed away at Waterford Regional Hospital, was a popular and respected figure who led the Catholic Church in this diocese from 1965 through to 1993.

Born on December 10th 1920 in Loughmore, just outside Thurles, Michael Russell was the last surviving link from the Irish hierarchy which attended the historic Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

He received his secondary education at the Christian Brothers School in Thurles before studying for the priesthood at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth and was ordained on June 17th 1945. 

In 1948, the then Father Russell completed his postgraduate studies when conferred with a Doctorate in Canon Law.

He was later appointed as Professor of Moral Theology in Saint Patrick’s College in Thurles, where he lectured until 1965, the year in which Pope Paul VI appointed him Bishop of Waterford and Lismore.

The news of Bishop Russell’s death was received with deep sadness by his successor, Bishop William Lee.  

“Since becoming Bishop of this diocese in July 1993 I have enjoyed and greatly valued his wisdom and support,” said Bishop Lee on Monday afternoon.

“Bishop Michael was loved and admired by the people and priests of Waterford and Lismore. He will be greatly missed by all.”

Added Bishop Lee: “Bishop Michael will be remembered especially for his great love of the Church, his deep faith, his prayerfulness, his devotion to Our Lady, his humility, warmth and approachability.” 

Michael Russell is survived by his brothers Conor and Sean, sisters-in-law Madge and Maura, nephews, nieces and friends, to whom Bishop Lee extended his “sincere sympathy”.

City Mayor Jack Walsh extended similar sympathy from the people of Waterford to the deceased’s family and friends. “Bishop Russell was a man loved by all the people of Waterford and I always valued his wisdom,” said Mayor Walsh.

Last (Tuesday) night, Bishop Russell’s remains were received at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity by Bishop William Lee, where he lay in repose until 9pm.

Today (Wednesday), his remains will repose between 9am and 9pm, with his Requiem Mass to be held tomorrow, commencing at 12 noon.

Bishop Lee will be the chief celebrant and will also preach the homily at the Mass, after which Michael Russell’s remains will be laid to rest in the grounds of the Cathedral.

See also pages 3 and 7