LONDON -- Pope John Paul II yesterday appointed a prelate who has condemned the Irish Republican Army as "evil" to be the new spiritual leader of the 4 million Catholics on both sides of the Irish border.
Archbishop Cahal Daly's outspoken and constant denunciation of the IRA and his pursuit of reconciliation between Ireland's so-called "two traditions" were believed to be major factors in his selection as Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland.
Archbishop Daly, 73, -- the oldest appointee to the Irish primacy in 170 years -- replaces Cardinal Tomas O'Fiaich, who died of a heart attack earlier this year. The position traditionally leads to elevation as a cardinal.
Most members of the IRA and their supporters are Catholics, but Archbishop Daly has sought to divorce the organization from the church and to weaken its influence in the Republican areas of Belfast.
The IRA and its sympathizers disparage him as an apologist for what they regard as British military occupation of part of Ireland.
When two off-duty British soldiers were beaten and shot dead after unwittingly encountering a Republican funeral parade in Belfast in 1988, he publicly appealed, as Bishop of Down and Connor, for Catholics to abandon the IRA.
"I want to plead with those who joined the organization in the past for idealistic reasons and out of a sense of justice now to have the honesty and the courage to recognize that their involvement has forced them to do deeds which would have revolted them when they first joined." He said many Catholics were outraged by IRA activities, "The evil forces which have been released within their community are opposed to everything that Catholics believe and cherish."