'We all want justice but Bishop O'Connell would have wanted forgiveness too'

Cork-born Bishop David O’Connell was shot and killed in his home in Los Angeles last month. His close friend Fr Robert Brophy, who is attending his funeral today, speaks to Sarah Horgan about the need for both justice and forgiveness in the case
'We all want justice but Bishop O'Connell would have wanted forgiveness too'

Alma Leticia Lopez prays over a picture of the late Bishop David O'Connell, who was murdered, after Ash Wednesday Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles on, February 22, 2023. Photo: Getty Images

A CLOSE friend of deceased Bishop David O’Connell insisted he would have wanted forgiveness for his killer ahead of today’s funeral service in Los Angeles.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles will hold his requiem mass at 7pm Irish time following three days of public mourning in California city.

Police in Los Angeles are continuing investigations but are yet to find a motive for the killing of Bishop O’Connell, who died from a gunshot wound to the upper chest.

It is believed he was shot in his sleep while at home in east Los Angeles, off Janlu Avenue in the Hacienda Heights area.

Carlos Medina, 61, husband of Bishop O’Connell’s housekeeper, has been charged with his murder.

Bishop David O'Connell.
Bishop David O'Connell.

Parish priest of Curraheen Road, Fr Robert Brophy, who was a close friend of the bishop’s and served with him in his parish in Los Angeles from 2018 to 2020, will accompany his family to the funeral today.

He said that forgiveness will undoubtedly be a difficult process for the bishop’s friends and family.

“I know Dave would be asking us to forgive because he understood the backgrounds of people coming from very deprived situations,” said Fr Brophy. 

“He would want us to forgive but that will be a process for everyone who knew him and especially his family. As Pope Francis says in one of his books ‘the name of God is mercy’.

“We all want justice, and rightly so, but mercy is a Christian disposition that is ultimately very difficult. It’s the mercy of God that will help us during these difficult times.”

A capacity crowd is expected to attend the service today, from politicians to Hollywood’s elite and parishioners on the margins of society.

“He had a great capacity for friendship and could disarm people with his humour and deprecation. He knew all the movers and shakers in Hollywood who he turned to when challenged to respond to the needs of the poor and demand their rights and services.”

He spoke of how the Cork man had devoted his life to being a peacemaker among gangs in the locality.

“This was one of the most dangerous areas in LA and probably the whole of the United States. He lived there but was so well respected as a walking witness of the gospel.”

Fr Brophy urged people not to lose hope, adding: “I know that when I see his family it will be intensely emotional. He was a man of deep faith and I will be drawing on that faith. Otherwise, death is desolation and despair and we lose the hope in our hearts. He was a man of hope. It was something that he preached and believed.

“He saw the value in people dismissed by authorities as ‘no-gooders’. As far as he was concerned, education was the exit from poverty and oppression. He showed people they were precious and children of God. He also taught them to respect others as children of God, and in turn created a value system that sustained them.”

Fr Brophy acknowledged the people who have turned their lives around as a result of the bishop’s influence.

“People on the margins know who’s authentic. He took people from the gangs and brought them together through Christ. They were able to renew their lives and employment gave them a new sense of purpose and dignity. He was very much involved in the education of these people because he viewed education as the path to liberation and freedom. Gun culture doesn’t help in the United States and it was something he was trying to get people away from. Some areas are like war zones but incredible people emerged from them because of Dave’s support. I don’t think people realise the impact of the work he did in a place that was so devastated by violence and poverty. He served as a light in some very dark places.”

Bishop David O'Connell
Bishop David O'Connell

The bishop never forgot his roots.

“His family were so supportive and loving to him. He was so proud of his nephews and nieces. They are grieving the loss of someone who was precious and special to them. At his ordination, he said it was a great honour to become bishop but being from Cork was more important.”

Fr Brophy recalled how they were both godfathers to a young girl from Mexico who was adopted in Cork.

“We were both padrinos to a beautiful adopted girl from Mexico who is now attending UCC. I spoke to her recently and she told me she felt that Dave was part of her history.”

He added it was fitting Bishop David O’Connell lived in the “city of angels”.

“Los Angeles is known as the city of angels and that’s the perfect way to describe David. He is one of those angels.”

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