“Bishop, priest, man of God and man of the people, a hurling man to the core and a true Christian, ho has made a huge contribution at national level to the religious, professional and cultural life of the country and has brought honour to his native Roscrea and Tipperary” - that was the description of retired Bishop of Killaloe, Most Rev Dr Willie Walsh as he was inducted to the Tipperary Hall of Fame on Friday night.
Introducing Bishop Walsh to the attendance at the Tipperary Associaton Dublin function in the Regency Hotel, former association president Michael Fenton said he was a man never afraid to express a view and who courted controversy over his fortright views on a range of issues.
In reply, Bishop Walsh said he has for many years being linked to his involvement with Clare hurling but remarked that the ‘savage loves his native shore’ and the achievements of Tipp hurling in recent years had filled him with immense pride.
He said he was honoured to be joining the many Tipperary ‘giants’ who had been inducted into the Hall of Fame and to be associated that night with Tipp hurling boss Liam Sheedy who was honoured as Tipp Person of the Year and former editor of the Tipperary Star, Michael Dundon, who was also honoured at the function following his recent retirement following 47 years service to the newspaper.
Michael Fenton said of Bishop Walsh - “He favoured debate on the ordination of women, lacked enthusiasm for the Tridentine (Latin) Mass, expressed sadness at the Catholic Church’s attitudes to homosexuality and the refusal of the Eucharist to divorced couples. He also called for discussion on the question of celibacy in the priesthood”.
He remarked that he was also outspoken on child abuse and did not shy away from calling on his fellow bishops to respond to the issue in the 2009 Murphy Report.
“He sought to change attitudes in the very best interests of people and even at the expense of having his knuckles rapped by the authorities in Rome. He took a common sense attitude to many issues, showing leadership in seeking to come to terms with the injustices perpetuated in different ways on so many.
“But Bishop Willie is not a person to be overcome or discouraged by what has happened, he sees that the crisis in the church is also a time of opportunity to remove what was wrong in the past. He says – ‘Every crisis is also an opportunity for serious change, to begin again, to renew our faith, our hope and indeed our love’”.
Mr Fenton said he would also be remembered for his kindness to those less fortunate and particularly to the Traveller community in Ennis.