Page last updated at 10:18 GMT, Monday, 15 March 2010

Profile - Cardinal Sean Brady

Cardinal Brady
Cardinal Brady has lead the Irish Church in one of its most difficult times

Ireland's most senior Catholic cleric Cardinal Sean Brady is facing calls to resign after it emerged he attended meetings more than 30 years ago in which children who had complained they were abused by a priest were asked to sign vows of silence. BBC News Online profiles Cardinal Brady.

Cardinal Sean Brady has been Primate of All Ireland since 1996 but the past year has been the most difficult of his time in charge as he has faced the fall out from two major reports into child sex abuse in the Irish church.

Following the Ryan report, which looked at abuse within Catholic institutions, Cardinal Brady urged the religious congregations involved to consider increasing the compensation they had offered to victims.

After the Murphy report into a massive abuse cover-up in the Dublin diocese the cardinal said he would resign if he found that a child had been abused as a result of any managerial failure on his part.

That promise is now being closely scrutinised.

Sean Brady was born in the village of Laragh, County Cavan in 1939.

He was educated at Caulfield National School in Laragh and St Patrick's College in Cavan before entering the seminary at St Patrick's College, Maynooth.

He went on to the Irish College in Rome, where he was ordained in February 1964 and received a doctorate in Canon Law at the Lateran University, Rome in 1967.

His first appointment was as a teacher at his old school, St Patrick's College, where he served from 1967-80.

It was during this period he served as part-time secretary to the then Bishop of Kilmore, the late Bishop Francis McKiernan.

It was in this role that he attended the controversial meeting with abuse complainants in 1975.

In 1980 he was appointed Vice-Rector of the Irish College in Rome, becoming Rector in 1987, a post he held until 1993.

'Feeding the flock'

He then returned to Ireland to become parish priest of Castletara, in County Cavan.

In 1995 he was ordained Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh.

A year later he became the leader of Ireland's Catholics when he succeeded Cardinal Cahal Daly, to become Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland.

He presided over Cardinal Daly's funeral service in January 2010.

In 2007 Pope Benedict announced that Archbishop Brady was to be created a Cardinal. The ceremony, which elevated him to the College of Cardinals took place in St Peter's Basilica in Rome in November 2007.

On that occasion he said: "Becoming a Cardinal is not just an honour, it is also a responsibility.

"It implies a willingness to help the Pope to carry out the tasks entrusted to him of feeding the flock, strengthening them in their faith, leading back the stray and guiding them safely into the banquet of Eternal Life.

"Pope Benedict himself has described it as the work of rescuing people from the many forms of alienation that are in our world today."

Cardinal Brady has maintained a deep interest in education, defending the Church's role in schools in the Irish Republic and overseeing a major reform of Catholic education in Northern Ireland.

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