Page 10, 23rd February 1996

23rd February 1996
Page 10
Page 10, 23rd February 1996 — Former world head of Dominicans dies
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Former world head of Dominicans dies

Fr Damian Byrne FR DAmiAN BYRNE was the world head of the Dominican Order from 1983 to 1992. He died in Dublin on 18 February after a heart attack.

One of Ireland's most distinguished Churchmen, he was born in Galway on 8 January 1929, and ordained priest in 1955, having entered the Dominicans at the age of 20.

From 1965, Fr Byrne headed the Order's jurisdictions in Trinidad-Tobago, Mexico (an unusual accolade for a non-Mexican member of the order) and Ireland, before being elected, in 1983, master of the Dominican Order at its general chapter in Rome. He was only the second Irishman to hold the Order's top office.

There are 7,000 male Dominicans and 34,000 female Dominicans in the world, and the mastergeneral is directly responsible for supervising the male members whilst being the moral and spiritual overseer of the women religious. Fr Byrne led the Dominicans in this capacity for nine years, but at the end of his term in office in 1992, he is believed to have declined the offer of a bishop's post, which would have been the usual next step.

He returned to Ireland, and in 1994 was appointed general secretary of the Conference of Religious in Ireland, where he put great energy behind the motes to persuade the hierarchy to take the clerical child sex abuse scandal seriously. He also organised the first major seminars on the issue, and played an important role in the bishops' advisory committee on child sexual abuse.

Fr Byrne became well known for his defence of the controversial Flemish theologian, Fr Edward Schillebeeckx, who was a Dominican at odds with the Vatican. When Fr Byrne was elected, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was already investigating Fr Schillebeecla's views on the human nature of Christ, secularisation and ordained ministry. The end result were some word changes in the theologian's writings, but no condemnation from the Vatican.

Fr Byrne also became involved in a situation regarding another Dominican, Fr Matthew Fox, who refused to sever ties with the Institute on Culture and Creative Spirituality, which he had founded. The Congregation was concerned by Fr Fox's support for women priests and homosexual unions, his writings on creation spirituality, and his hiring of a practicing witch to teach at his institute, and his refusals to obey his Dominican superiors caused Fr Byrne to approve the theologian's dismissal from the Order.

Speaking shortly after his death, Cardinal Cabal Daly, the Catholic Primate of All Ireland, said that Fr Byrne had made a "massive contribution to the Catholic Church, both in the service of his beloved Dominican Order and in the service of the Church worldwide", and said the Irish Church would be forever in debt for the "wisdom and commitment"

he brought to his membership of the bishop's committee on child sexual abuse.

At the time of his death, he was the secretary-general of the Conference of Religious in Ireland.

Canon Henry Olsen CANON OLSEN WAS ordained priest at Ushaw College by Bishop McCormack on 23 July, 1939. After one month as an assistant priest at St Philip's, Dunston, he returned to Ushaw College and taught there until July 1961, being made Vice President of the College in October 1950. In August 1961, he was appointed parish priest of St Joseph's, Durham, and served there until March 1977, being created a Canon in 1972.

In April 1977, he became the first secular parish priest of St Joseph's, Birtley, when the monks of Douai Abbey handed over the parish to the diocese, while in 1969 he was responsible for starting the Schools' Commission and became its first chairman, a post he held until 1988. In June 1988, he resigned as parish priest and retired to Ouston where he lived until his move to St Joseph's Home in 1994, due to increasing ill-health. Canon Olsen died on 11 February after a short chest infection. He was 83 years old.

Fr Oswald Charleton

OSWALD CHARLETON was born in York on 28 December, 1916. After his education at the Oratory School in Reading, he studied at St John's College, Oxford then spent four years working for the Shell Petroleum Company. During the war he saw active service as an Artillery Lieutenant and Battery Captain, but in 1949 entered Wonersh seminary, and was ordained in 1955.

Following his ordination, Fr "Ossie" was appointed as assistant priest at Farnham for four years, then at Uckfield until 1961, before teaching in Purley and Guildford. From 1972, he was appointed parish priest at St Bernard's Lingfield, retiring to Holy Cross Priory, Heathfield in 1991.

He died on 21 January. Rev Fr Joseph Metcalfe

FOLLOWING A PERIOD Of illness, Fr jos_71, died on 5 January this year.

Born in July 1900, Fr Metcalfe studied in St Peter's, Wexford, and was ordained priest on 2 April 1927. He worked as an assistant priest at St Joseph's, Bristol and the Sacred Heart, Minehead. In 1935 he was appointed parish priest of Shepton Mallet, remaining there until 1952 when he moved to the Christian Brothers' Novitiate House at Toddington. From 1971 to his retirement in 1974, Fr Metcalfe acted as chaplain to the Franciscan Convent at Woodchester and St Angela's Convent, BristoAfter two years in Ireland, he returned to St Angela's, this time as a resident where he was looked after by the Sisters of the Temple.

Next week's Parish in Focus: St Anselm and St Cecilia, Lincoln's Inn Fields




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