A PRIEST from Mossend who once hosted regular working lunches for Pope John Paul II has died aged 83 after a period of ill health.
Fr Clarence Gallagher SJ was described by one Vatican observer as ‘possibly the most outstanding British Jesuit of his generation’
A former pupil of Holy Family Primary School and Our Lady’s High School, Motherwell, Fr Clarence had for some years lived at the Corpus Christi Jesuit retirement community in Boscombe, near Bournemouth.
His funeral mass was celebrated there and a memorial service will be held at Holy Family Church in Mossend on Monday, June 3, at 7pm. Fr Gallagher’s sister, Mary, a retired doctor, still lives in Mossend.
Fr Clarence studied for the priesthood in Rome, but rather than be ordained for the new Diocese of Motherwell in 1948 he joined the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) after completing a three-year course in philosophy.
Later he took degrees in classics and education at Oxford before, aged 33, being ordained a Jesuit priest.
He then studied the church’s Canon Law, excelling in the subject and teaching it in Rome.
During a spell back in Scotland, he was parish priest at St Aloysius in Glasgow, headmaster at the Jesuits College and a judge in the Scottish National Marriage Tribunal.
In 1985 Fr Gallagher was recalled to Rome and appointed lecturer in Canon Law at the Pontifical Oriental Institute which involved working with the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches which were then in full communion with Rome.
In 1990 Pope John Paul II named him rector of the institute.
The following year Fr Gallagher founded Centro Aletti, a centre for study and research aligned with the mission of the Society of Jesus at the Pontifical Oriental Institute.
It was for scholars and artists with a Christian perspective from Central and Eastern Europe, giving them the chance to meet with their Western colleagues.
Its aim, in Pope John Paul II’s words at the official opening, is to ‘create privileged opportunities for meetings and exchanges on the subject of Christianity in East Europe’.
Working lunches involving the pope were a regular occurrence at this time.
Fr Gallagher was principal adviser to the Vatican’s team of prelates during fruitful negotiations with the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church on the vexed question of inter-church marriages.
After his five-year stint as rector of the POI, he moved to Oxford and began teaching Roman Catholic Canon Law at Heythrop College, part of the University of London.
He then wrote an acclaimed book ‘Church Law and Church Order in Rome and Byzantium: A Comparative Study’.
In 1998 Fr Clarence declined Rome’s invitation to head a visitation of the Catholic Churches in India. However, he was in a delegation to Bulgaria ahead of Pope John Paul II’s successful visit to the former communist country.