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Benemerenti medal for Archbishop Hurley biographer

Mr Paddy Kearney was awarded a special medal by Pope Francis, recognising his service to the Catholic Church over several decades. He wrote the first comprehensive biography of the great South African Archbishop, Denis Hurley, entitled “Guardian of the Light”. Kearney was also instrumental in setting up the Denis Hurley Centre in Durban.

At a mass celebrated on Sunday, 8 April at Emmanuel Cathedral, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, the Archbishop of Durban, presented Mr Paddy Kearney with the “Benemerenti Medal“. The medal is awarded by the pope and was originally established 250 years ago when it was given as a military honour to soldiers in the papal army. However, for the past 100 years, it has been awarded to priests and laypeople in thanksgiving for their exemplary service to the Church.

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier pins the Benemerenti medal onto Paddy Kearney

Kearney, who was born and educated in Kwazulu-Natal, worked very closely with the late Archbishop Denis Hurley and continues to work closely with Cardinal Wilfrid Napier. He helped to establish Diakonia Council of Churches, an ecumenical organisation that supports Christian churches in Durban in their joint work to promote justice and peace.

In recent years he helped found and establish the Denis Hurley Centre of which he is now the chairperson. The centre, named in memory of the late archbishop, brings together people of different faiths to help serve the poor in the City of Durban.

St Joseph's parishioner, Rose Morrow, praised Kearney on social media saying “If anyone deserves a papal medal it is Paddy.” She went on to say that she was “very proud of him and of the Church for recognizing remarkable commitment”.

Kearney is the author of the first full biography of Archbishop Hurley: Guardian of the Light: Denis Hurley, Renewing the Church, Opposing ApartheidHe was awarded an honorary doctorate in theology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He was also the recipient of the Bonum Commune award from St Augustine College South Africa. At present, he is a consultant to the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council and is the chairperson of The Gandhi Development Trust.

Upon receiving the medal Kearney said: “I am very grateful to the Parish Pastoral Council of Emmanuel Cathedral together with the Administrator, Fr Nkosinathi Ngcobo, for nominating me to receive this award and to Cardinal Napier for making all the necessary arrangements.”

Paddy Kearney with Emmanuel Cathedral Administrator Fr Nkosinathi Ngcobo and Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, Archbishop of Durban.

The current version of the Benemerenti medal was designed by Pope Paul VI. On it is a gold Greek Cross depicting Christ with his hand raised in the form of a blessing. On the left arm of the cross are the tiara and crossed keys – symbols of the papacy. On the right arm of the medal is Pope Francis' coat of arms. The medal is suspended from a yellow and white ribbon, the colours of the papacy.

Adapted from a post on the Denis Hurley Centre Facebook page

Images: Illa Thompson and Nomfundo Dlamini.

* The opinions expressed here by Spotlight.Africa contributors and editors are their own and not official statements of the Society of Jesus in South Africa or of the Catholic Church unless explicitly stated.


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