John Hume made peace visible for others even in the darkest moments, his funeral has been told.
Mourners heard that the former SDLP leader and Nobel laureate saved the lives of others through his vision and work.
During his funeral at St Eugene’s Cathedral in Londonderry, Mr Hume was described as a man who made his family “laugh, dream and think”.
Father Paul Farren said that Mr Hume gave his life for his country.
He said: “He focused on unity and peace, and giving that dignity to every person.
“We should never underestimate how difficult it was for John to cross the road and do what was intensely unpopular for the greater good.
“Even in the darkest moments, when people would have been forgiven for having no hope, John made peace visible for others.
“His vision revealed what could be, and with time and determination and single-mindedness and stubbornness, he convinced others that peace could be a reality.”
In his homily he said that Mr Hume never lost faith in peace, nor faith in his ability to convince others that peace was the only way.
“If ever you want to see a man who gave his life for his country, and his health, that man is John Hume. The world knows it,” he added.
Father Farren said that John and his wife Pat have secured their place in the history of Ireland, “John being Ireland’s greatest”.
Mr Hume’s son John Hume Junior told those gathered in the Cathedral that his dad was a Derryman to his core.
Mr Hume added: “If dad were here today, in the fullness of his health, witnessing the current tensions in the world, he wouldn’t waste the opportunity to say a few words.
“He’d talk about our common humanity, the need to respect diversity and difference, to protect and deepen democracy, to value education, and to place non-violence at the absolute centre.
— Social Democratic and Labour Party (@SDLPlive) August 4, 2020
“He might also stress the right to a living wage and a roof over your head, to decent healthcare and education.
“Marrying Pat, our mother, was without a doubt dad’s greatest achievement and she enabled him to reach his full potential.
“Along with mum, he taught us all our values and gave us all our moral compass. And for that we will be forever in their debt.”
Messages were also read from former US president Bill Clinton, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U2 singer Bono.
Among the dignitaries were Ireland’s President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Micheal Martin, Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill.
Others included former SDLP leader Mark Durkan and current leader Colum Eastwood.
Mr Durkan and Mr Hume’s eldest daughter Therese led the readings while singer Anne Marie Hickey was joined by organist Aidan Watkins and Frank Gallagher, who played the violin.
Prayers of the faithful were read by Mr Hume’s grandchildren Dee, Aoibhe, Rachel and Una.
A poem written by Aidan Hume, Mr Hume’s son, was read by Mo Hume.
Aidan, who is based in Boston, was not able to attend the funeral because of Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Mo became tearful as she read her sibling’s tribute to her father.
“You made us realise a border is just a line on a map. It’s in our hearts and minds where we need to bridge the gap,” she said.
“Thorough over 30 years of violence, hurt and unrelenting stress, those underlying conditions you never stopped trying to address.
“I don’t think I ever said aloud how you made us all so incredibly proud. All you ever wanted was to make the world a better place.”
Pope Francis also paid tribute to Mr Hume.
A statement from the Vatican said: “His Holiness Pope Francis was saddened to learn of the death of John Hume, and sends the assurance of his prayers to his family and to all who mourn his loss.
“Mindful of the Christian faith that inspired John Hume’s untiring efforts to promote dialogue, reconciliation and peace among the people of Northern Ireland, his Holiness commends his noble soul to the loving mercy of Almighty God.”
A message from the Dalai Lama was also read during the service.
“I was pleased to be able to meet John during one of my several visits to Northern Ireland,” he said.
“Indeed, his deep conviction in the power of dialogue and negotiations in resolving the problem in his homeland has been an example of non-violent resolution of issues.
“It was his leadership and his faith in the power of negotiations that enabled the 1998 Good Friday Agreement to be reached. His steady persistence set an example for all of us to follow.
“Although my fellow Nobel laureate is no longer with us, his message about peace and non-violence in the resolution of conflict, no matter how protracted or difficult it may seem to be, will long survive him. He lived a truly meaningful life.”
Derry musician Phil Coulter played Mr Hume’s favourite song The Town I Loved So Well on the piano at the end of the service.
Speaking before the funeral, Mr Eastwood said they were grateful to have had Mr Hume.
“There is work to be done and John was always forward thinking. He gave us the platform, he gave us the pathway, he gave us the opportunity to do this free from violence,” he said.
“We have to keep going to build the shared island that we want.”
Mrs Foster described it as a “sad day”.
“I was reflecting that this has been a very difficult year for the SDLP with the loss of John Dallat and Seamus Mallon. We are here to support colleagues and indeed the family.”
Ms O’Neill said that Mr Hume’s death marks the start of the end of an era.
“The era of Martin McGuinness, John Hume, Ian Paisley – all different political perspectives,” she added.
“But as we lose big giants like that there is a huge onus on us, as the post-Good Friday Agreement generation of political leaders, to be able to carry out the good work they started.”
People lined the streets outside the Cathedral and applauded as the funeral procession made its way along the route to the city cemetery where a private burial took place.
Following a request from John Hume's family, President Higgins and Sabina this evening lit a "candle for peace" at Áras an Uachtaráin. pic.twitter.com/3GPZhkfRkp
— President of Ireland (@PresidentIRL) August 4, 2020
Mrs Hume and her family acknowledged the crowds through the open car windows.
The Derry politician, feted around the world as a peacemaker, died on Monday at the age of 83 after a long battle with dementia.
In ordinary circumstances, Mr Hume’s funeral would have been expected to draw huge crowds, but numbers were limited due to coronavirus restrictions.
Mr Hume was a key architect of the Good Friday Agreement and was awarded the Nobel peace prize for the pivotal role he played in ending the region’s sectarian conflict.
The former MP, Stormont Assembly member and MEP, led the party he helped found for 22 years.
He was a prominent figure in the civil rights campaigns of the late 1960s and also played a leading role in the formation of the credit union movement.
Throughout his political career, he remained steadfast in his commitment to non-violence.
His participation in secret talks with then Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams in the late 1980s and early 1990s was a key catalyst for the nascent peace process.
The SDLP leader faced intense criticism, including some from within his own party, when his dialogue with Mr Adams became public in 1993.
Despite threats to his life, he persisted with his efforts to engage with the republican movement and to convince the IRA to end its campaign of violence.
The highlight of Mr Hume’s career came in 1998 with the signing of the historic Good Friday accord which largely ended Northern Ireland’s 30-year sectarian conflict.
Along with Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble, now Lord Trimble, Mr Hume was awarded the Nobel peace prize for his contribution to stopping the bloodshed.
In 2010, Mr Hume was named “Ireland’s Greatest” in a poll by Ireland’s national broadcaster RTE.
His death came just six months after that of fellow Good Friday architect and long-time SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon.
A number of vehicles were hijacked in Derry on Tuesday afternoon, with Mr Eastwood accusing those responsible of violating the grief of the city.