Leading Durban religious leader and opponent of apartheid – Father Paddy Kearney has passed away.

Denis Hurley Centre director Raymond Perrier says the death of the 76-year old Kearney is a great loss for Durban’s religious community.

Kearney was a founding member of the Diakonia Council of Churches, known for its work against apartheid, together with well-known cleric and activist Archbishop Denis Hurley.

Kearney also served as chairperson of the board of trustees of the Denis Hurley Centre – an organisation set up to see to the needs of the poor.

Perrier pays his respects.

“All religious people in Durban are deeply shocked by the news of the sudden death of Paddy Kearny. Even though he was a very quiet man, he was a giant in the history of Durban of social activism, fighting for the poor and the marginalised and bringing peace between different communities.”

“He worked very closely with Archbishop Hurley and was his biographer. He founded Diakonia Council of Churches with Archbishop Hurley and in that context was fighting against apartheid,” explains Perrier.

Perrier says Kearney was still fit and healthy despite his age.

He says Kearney was hospitalised yesterday after returning from a book launch in Johannesburg.

“He came back to Durban from Johannesburg and seemed a bit sick. On Friday morning, he was admitted to hospital, concerned that he might have pneumonia. And almost immediately he had a massive heart attack and died.”

“But even before he died he was alert enough to phone friends in Cape Town where he was due to do a book launch next week, and tell them he probably would not be able to attend, and wanted apologised to them. He was a gentleman and very graciousness to the very end,” adds Perrier.