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Inspirational friend laid to rest

CHURCH, government and legal community leaders were among those paying tribute to Truth, Justice and Healing Council chair Barry O’Keefe at his funeral in St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, on May 2.

Mr O’Keefe, a former Commissioner of the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, a former chief judge of the commercial division of the NSW Supreme Court, chairman of Interpol’s International Group of Experts on Corruption, chair of the International Anti-Corruption Conference and a former Mayor of Mossman, NSW, died on April 24 at St Vincent’s Hospital, Darlinghurst, surrounded by his wife Janette, five children and some of his seven grandchildren.

He was 80 and he and Janette had been married for 52 years.

Sydney archdiocese’s apostolic administrator Bishop Peter Comensoli celebrated the Pontifical Mass of Christian Burial for Mr O’Keefe.

Catholic Communications in Sydney archdiocese reported the brother of rock’n’roll legend Johnny O’Keefe often joked that while his younger brother was the “wild one” he was the “mild one”.

Bishop Comensoli, at the funeral, described Mr O’Keefe as “a good but always humble man” whose Christian faith had been the bedrock of both his public and private life.

“His was not a selfish life, but one lived generously and ever attentive to others,” Bishop Comensoli said. “Marriage and family mattered; justice and dignity mattered; respect and service mattered; beauty and goodness mattered.”

Cardinal George Pell, who knew Mr O’Keefe and his family for many years, sent a message from Rome and Bishop Comensoli read this at the funeral. Cardinal Pell expressed his deep regret at not being able to be present “personally to pray for the soul of a good friend, who was a wise source of advice and a regular support; always ready to help”.

He said Mr O’Keefe was “a deeply believing Christian, daily Mass goer for many years, utterly loyal Catholic – an exemplary Catholic in fact, who made many important contributions over the decades to Australian public life, to the Church and internationally through his work against corruption”.

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Denis Hart and Catholic Religious Australia president Sister of Charity Annette Cunliffe, in a joint statement, said Mr O’Keefe had made an outstanding and distinguished contribution to the community through his service to the law, local and state government and international co-operation particularly in the fight against corruption and injustice.

A TJHC statement said that, for the past 18 months, Mr O’Keefe “has worked tirelessly to chart a path for reform within the Catholic Church as it deals with the Royal Commission …”

TJHC chief executive officer Francis Sullivan said the death of Mr O’Keefe was a great loss.

 “Barry was an inspiration and friend to all associated with the council and his leadership will be sorely missed,” he said.

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