His Eminence Cardinal Idris Edward Cassidy – Requiescat in Pace
Images courtesy Giovanni Portelli / Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney
Dear Consoeurs, Confrères and Friends
Cardinal Edward Cassidy’s funeral on Monday, 19 April 2021, from St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, celebrates the passage into eternal life of a remarkable servant of the people of God. Much has been written about him in recent days since his death in Newcastle on 10 April but his role as a Bailiff Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion of the Order leads me to say something to you about him in gratitude for the work he did for the Order over the years and in thanks for the distinction he brought to us by association.
Our principal chaplain, Archbishop Coleridge, said this of him:
“… It was at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity that he ‘shone’ .. [he] showed not only diplomatic skill and political astuteness, but also human authenticity and common sense … There was a simplicity in it all – the simplicity of a man called to high office in the Church but with his eyes firmly on Jesus Christ.”
Our conventual chaplain ad honorem, Archbishop Fisher, elegantly summarised his work in these terms:
“This Sydney-born cardinal left a remarkable legacy on our Church, especially in the field of ecumenism during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II when he served as President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. He led some wonderful initiatives in the 1990s which nurtured unprecedented dialogue between our Church and fellow Christians and he also helped lead historic progress in dialogue with non Christian faiths.”
Cardinal Cassidy was a talented canon lawyer and diplomat, serving as Apostolic nuncio in Ireland, El Salvador, Argentina, Taiwan, Bangladesh, South Africa, Burma, Lesotho, the Netherlands and India. Few other Australians have had such a profound impact on the Catholic Church on the international stage and I’m sure he will continue to inspire church leaders for many years to come.
Cardinal Cassidy was a most charming man and put that mix of charm and faith to very good use in service of the Church’s diplomatic missions and ecumenical efforts.”
One of his principal achievements in the ecumenical field was overseeing the groundbreaking 1999 agreement between Catholics and Lutherans on the doctrine of Justification. Christopher Lamb in The Tablet said this joint document “effectively saw the resolution of a 500-year-old dispute which had been a theological fault line between Catholics and Protestants at the Reformation”.
He was also responsible for the Church’s relations with Judaism. In mourning his death the World Jewish Congress said in a statement that:
“He played a leading role in resuming dialogue between Catholics and Jews, and helped drive the planning for a meeting of [the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee] held in Prague in September 1990, which constituted, with its final declaration, one of the milestone meetings in the ongoing Jewish-Catholic dialogue, in which Cardinal Cassidy was the first church official to call publicly for Catholics to do ‘teshuvah,’ the Hebrew term for repentance.”
After his retirement from the Vatican, where he had risen to become effectively the papal chief of staff at the Secretariat of State, he returned to Australia, where he would step in to say Masses in parishes when priests were away and worked as a chaplain to the Italian community in Newcastle.
Our former president, Conf Dr Ian Marshall, says that his outstanding characteristic was his humility and that he “was a great supporter of the Order and participated in the Order’s affairs, as often as he could, especially in Sydney, well into his eighties”.
May he Rest In Peace.
The Hon James Douglas KHD