The death of Bishop Christopher Jones, Bishop Emeritus of Elphin, was announced on Friday evening 18 May. Following the announcement, bishops paid tribute to the late bishop, who was described as ‘a much loved pastor, kind and caring’.
Bishop Jones’ remains will repose in Saint Mary’s Presbytery, Temple Street, Sligo, today from 12.00-6.00pm, before removal to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, arriving for 8.00pm. The Requiem Mass for Bishop Jones will be celebrated in the cathedral at 1.30pm on Tuesday 22 May. Chief celebrant at the Requiem Mass will be Bishop Kevin Doran, and the homily will be preached by Father Michael Duignan.
Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and President of the Irish Episcopal Conference, said that he was ‘very saddened to hear of the death of Bishop Christy Jones’. He continued, ‘Fifty-six years of priesthood, and twenty-four years as a bishop sums up a life of commitment, fidelity, service and love for the people, religious and priests of his home Diocese of Elphin. I shall never forget the warmth of his welcome to me upon my own ordination as a bishop five years ago; the encouragement and support he gave me is typical of this generous and devout servant of God.’
Archbishop Martin highlighted Bishop Jones’ contribution as a member of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, in particular his nine years as chair of the Episcopal Commission and Department for Pastoral Care. He also highlighted Bishop Jones’ service as chair of the Bishops’ Committee for Family Welfare and Children, and instrumental role in the foundation of the Bishops’ Council for Marriage and the Family, on which he served as its first chairman, as well as his position as President of Accord, Catholic Marriage Care Service, from 2010 to 2014.
Archbishop Martin continued, ‘Bishop Christy was a man for others, and was very committed throughout his lifetime to person-centred social services. Throughout his ministry, Bishop Christy also showed a great affinity and pastoral dedication to the Travelling community, and the mutual warmth between both was very evident during the 50th International Eucharistic Congress held in Dublin in 2012.’
‘The opening of the “Bishop Christopher Jones Learning Centre” in 2016 for students with autism at the College of the Immaculate Conception in Sligo brought particular joy to Bishop Jones, who held a deep connection to the school as a former student, staff member and patron.’
He concluded, ‘Bishop Christy was a much loved pastor, kind and caring. He had strong principles and was courageous in speaking his mind on many issues of the day. On my last visit to him on Easter Monday, he was calm and at peace, conscious that he would soon be returning to God who called him to service all those years ago.
‘At this sad time for Bishop Jones’ family, friends and brother clergy, I invite you all to pray for the happy repose of his soul. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilis.’
Bishop Kevin Doran, Bishop of Elphin, also paid tribute to the late Bishop Jones noting that, ‘This is a sad day for all of us in the Diocese of Elphin … I offer my personal sympathies and prayers to his sister Eileen and to all his extended family, and also to the priests, sisters and deacons and all who worked closely with him in the Diocese. I also want to express my grateful appreciation to all who cared for Bishop Christy so well during his long illness.’
He continued, ‘The death of Bishop Christy is like the loss of a grandparent. Up to the time of his retirement in July 2014, he worked tirelessly in the service of God and of the people of God, in this Diocese and further afield. He will be remembered by many for the way in which he put flesh on the Gospel through his care for and friendship with those who were poor and most at risk in our society.’
Bishop Doran added, ‘In recent months especially, he appreciated very much the short visits from colleagues and friends who kept him up to date on all that was happening in the Diocese and in the nation. May he now experience the friendship of Jesus Christ and of all the saints, especially Saints Eithne and Fidelma, Saint Asicus and all the many holy men and women of our own diocese who have gone ahead of him.’
Father Dermot Meehan, Diocesan Administrator of the Diocese of Achonry and Parish Priest of Swinford, Co Mayo, also paid tribute to Bishop Jones saying, ‘His death leaves a significant gap in the life of the Western Dioceses. As a former bishop of our neighbouring diocese, his friendship was deeply valued and sustaining. His untiring witness to outreach to the poor and marginalised was truly a blessing to many and an example to all.’
‘Our sympathy and prayers are with his sister, nephews and nieces, his extended family and with the bishop, priests, religious and faithful of the Diocese of Elphin.’
‘His place in our memory is assured and we pray that he may eternally enjoy the fullness of the Kingdom of God, to which he was ever faithful and to which he continually called those in his care.’
The full statements of Archbishop Martin, Bishop Doran and Father Meehan can be found on www.catholicbishops.ie.