POPE Francis has paid tribute to the late former taoiseach Albert Reynolds for his work as a peacemaker.
As mourners gather for a state funeral in Dublin for the politician and businessman, the pontiff sent a telegram in praise of his efforts to promote reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
Hundreds of politicians, business figures and dignitaries are attending requiem mass at the Sacred Heart Church, Donnybrook, along with the extended family, friends and supporters.
Mr Reynolds died last Thursday aged 81 after a long illness.
In the message from the Vatican’s secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin to Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, the Pope praised his work and offered condolences to the family.
“The Holy Father learned with sadness of the death of the former taoiseach Albert Reynolds and he asks you kindly to convey his condolences to Mrs Reynolds and their children and family,” the senior cleric said.
“Recalling with gratitude the late taoiseach’s efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in Ireland, His Holiness prays for the eternal repose of his soul.
“To all those gathered for the funeral rites, the Holy Father imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and hope in the risen Lord.”
Tributes flooded in from home and abroad in the days since Mr Reynolds’ death with contemporaries heralding the massive legacy he left after taking risks to carve out the Northern Ireland peace process.
Mr Reynolds is survived by his wife Kathleen, two sons and five daughters.
The family confirmed last year that he had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Born in November 1932 in Rooskey, Co Roscommon, Mr Reynolds was elected to the Irish parliament in 1977 and went on to become taoiseach in February 1992 in a coalition government.