U.S. Rep. Donald M. Payne, D-N.J., who died March 6 of colon cancer at a New Jersey hospital, was a Baptist but held many Catholic institutions in high esteem. A graduate of Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., he was the only non-Catholic among the 26-member official White House delegation to the installation of Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.
He also had “an amazing interest in Ireland,” according to Father Sean McManus, president of the Irish National Caucus. “I used to tell him he had been to (Northern Ireland) more often than I,” the priest told CNS after Payne’s death.
At a 1995 House hearing on the MacBride Principles, Payne said that as an African-American he could “easily identify with the Catholic minority” in Northern Ireland. Father McManus called him “a lovely man who ‘hungered and thirsted for justice’ — in America, Africa, Ireland and throughout the world.