Anti-apartheid icon Father Gerald Patrick Kearney has died

2018-11-23 22:18

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KwaZulu Natal anti-apartheid activist Gerald Patrick Kearney, popularly known as Paddy, died in Gateway Hospital in Durban on Friday at the age of 76.

According to his publicist and friend Illa Thompson, Kearney was admitted to hospital after complaining about not feeling well. He suffered a heart attack and died soon after arriving at hospital.

Kearney joined the struggle against apartheid at a young age. He participated by fighting the regime through religion.

Through his activism, Kearney trained people to set up and effectively run social action groups in the struggle against apartheid in the 1980s, which attracted the attention of the security forces and the Diakonia offices were raided several times.

He fought apartheid

He played a significant role in opposing apartheid and promoted the vision of a just society, serving the poorest and most marginalised citizens of Durban.

In addition to his work at the helm of Diakonia, as well as serving on NGOs, boards, organisations and civil society bodies, Kearney has also written three internationally acclaimed books on anti-apartheid activist, Archbishop Denis Hurley, and lived by Hurley's motto: "Community serving humanity."

Hurley, who died in 2004 at the age of 84, was the chairman of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference. He drafted the first of the groundbreaking pastoral letters in which the bishops denounced apartheid as "blasphemy" and "intrinsically evil".

Kearney was chairperson and founder of the Denis Hurley Centre, the founding director of Diakonia Council of Churches, chairperson of the Gandhi Development Trust and advisor to the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council, among many other important positions.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal granted him an honorary doctorate.

Forever remembered

Thompson said she would cherish every moment she had spent with Kearney and would miss him enormously.

"He was respected and respected everybody. He was admired too. Paddy was an incredible man who wanted to change people's lives. He was full of grace and forgiveness and he had high regard for people. 

"He was quiet and determined. He led by example. Paddy did amazing work for people. He operated across all faith lines. He encouraged people to work together for social justice and peace." 

Mass of remembrance 

On Saturday, at 17:30, a memorial mass in his honour is expected to be held at Emmanuel Cathedral in Durban.

On Friday, his Muslim friends offered prayers for him in mosques across Durban and prayers were also offered at the synagogue at the Durban Jewish Centre. Outside Diakonia, a vigil was held.

Kearney's funeral will be held at Emmanuel Cathedral on Saturday at 14:00.

*This article has been updated

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