Cape Town - He was a Catholic priest for 25 years, a bishop for three, and an archbishop for 19 – but Lawrence “Laurie” Henry, archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, was always “that oke from Athlone”.

“It was fundamental to who he was,” said Archbishop Stephen Breslin. “He never lost consciousness of his roots, of where he came from.”

Archbishop Henry died late last Tuesday at Cape Town Medi-Clinic, a day after doctors confirmed he had cancer, and just four months short of his 80th birthday.

He was buried on Saturday at the Woltemade Cemetery in Maitland.

Born in 1934, Henry was orphaned at three, and was raised by his grandmother. He attended St Raphael’s Primary School in Athlone, before moving on to St Columba’s High School.

Speaking at the burial mass at the Good Hope Centre on Saturday morning, Breslin said Henry was “deeply touched” by the church in those early years.

“The church became a home for him – his source of joy and happiness, his purpose in life.”

After matriculating Henry studied Latin for three years so he could join St Francis Xavier Minor Seminary – also in Athlone – and become a priest. He was ordained in 1962.

Yesterday, more than 120 church leaders were among those who gathered to remember him, including Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, Archbishop Buti Tlhagale from Johannesburg, and Archbishop Emeritus of Pretoria George Francis Daniel.

Also in attendance were Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Archbishop Sergios from the Greek Orthodox Church.

A message of condolence was also sent from the Vatican on behalf of Pope Francis.

Breslin said he couldn’t help but think Henry was “a bishop of the heart of Pope Francis”, who lived his faith joyously.

“He loved to laugh, but he loved to make others laugh even more.

“There were jokes he told many times over, but no matter how often he told them, they were still funny somehow.

“You see, the point of what I’m saying is not just that we enjoyed Archbishop Henry, that we loved to be with him and laughed at his jokes – the point is that he strengthened us in his faith. He showed us that God is a god of laughter, of joy, of happiness.”

Weekend Argus