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A welcoming and generous priest

Rev Fr Godfrey O’Donnell, former Irish Jesuit and priest of the Romanian Orthodox Church, died peacefully last Friday, 14 February 2020, in Swords, Dublin. He was known for his commitment to church unity and served as Irish Council of Churches (ICC) President from 2012-2014. His funeral took place in St Columba’s Church, Blakestown Way, Dublin, on Monday, 17 February 2020, followed by burial in Dardistown Cemetery. He was 80 years old.

Born in Derry, Fr Godfrey was a Jesuit for 28 years, before marrying and becoming the first Irish-born person to be ordained priest in the Romanian Orthodox Church.

Irish Jesuit Fr Myles O’Reilly spoke about his late friend: “As a Jesuit Godfrey was very kind, hospitable, generous and forward looking. His God was a God of compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy, and that was reflected in how he was a spiritual companion to others – a ministry which he loved.

“He left the Jesuits in consolation, trusting that he was drawn by God in a different direction, and always remained on good terms with them. May he rest in peace”.

According to the Irish Council of Churches », current ICC President Rev Brian Anderson (Methodist Minister) reflected on Fr Godfrey’s contribution to inter-church work: “Godfrey was generous to all he met. He had that lovely ability to make you feel welcomed. He also gave so much to his own church and the ecumenical community in Ireland”.

In 2013, he was awarded with the accolade of ‘Stavrophore’ (‘cross–bearer’) for his contribution to the Romanian Orthodox Church and community in Ireland. This included his role in establishing the first Romanian Orthodox parish at Leeson Park, Dublin.

As maintained by the ICC, links with the orthodox churches were “greatly developed and strengthened” during Fr Godfrey’s time as ICC President from 2012-2014. He is remembered with fondness.

Interview with Jesuits Ireland

In 2012, Fr Godfrey took part in an Advent podcast series entitled ‘Expanding Hope’ on the state of ecumenism, fifty years after Vatican II. In the interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications, he said that we are compelled to “stop shouting and start really listening to each other” if we are serious about the unity of Christians.

He spoke frankly about the obstacles to unity between his church and the Roman church (the wound of the crusades and a group of western knights helping themselves to the treasures of Constantinople, still hurts), his own vocations, the doctrinal and cultural obstacles on the ecumenical road, and his ultimate hope-filled vision.

Click on the link above to listen ».