Mourners pay tribute to popular priest at funeral

The funeral of Fr John Cribben at Our Lady and St Patrick's RC Church, Walton-le-Dale
The funeral of Fr John Cribben at Our Lady and St Patrick's RC Church, Walton-le-Dale
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The “simple” funeral Fr John Cribben asked for brought traffic to a standstill and attracted a bishop, more than 70 other clergy, and hundreds of mourners.

It was standing room only as the much-loved parish priest was laid to rest at the church where he met his death 10 days earlier, falling from a ladder while dusting.

“What a tribute,” said the Bishop of Salford, the Rt Rev John Arnold, during the Requiem Mass at a packed Our Lady and St Patrick’s Church in Walton-le-Dale.

“Fr John said he wanted a very simple funeral. No eulogy. So 
what are we going to do about that?”

The huge outpouring of love was in honour of a “great big bear of an Irishman” and “a one-off” who had served the parish for 18 years.

Only recently Fr Cribben had changed his mind about a funeral back home in the Emerald Isle and told friends he wanted to be buried amongst his flock in Lancashire.

Despite being 76, he had forgone the chance to retire a year ago and decided to carry on “as long as he felt fit enough”.

The bishop said: “When someone arrives in their seventies and is ill and dies, there is a great deal of sadness. It is the ending of a life.

“But when a man in his seventies dies by accident that brings a real shock and sadness, particularly when, even on the day he died, he had said to someone that he hadn’t felt so fit and well in years.

“We are in shock – the parish is in shock. When I came here last Sunday I saw a real sense of resilience in the thanksgiving that people already felt they wanted to express about Fr John.

“The fact that there is standing room only in this church today suggests there is a great deal of thanksgiving to be given in honour of this man and his priesthood.”

Fr Cribben was found dead on the floor of the church last week.

It is believed he fell around 35 feet from a ladder while dusting above an arch.

Parishioners revealed later he had been doing his own cleaning to save money rather than bring in a professional company.

Bishop Arnold added: “Even though there is no eulogy, there doesn’t need to be.

“Fifty years of priesthood. I only met him the once. We had a conversation and it was short. But he had written to me much more recently telling me what he thought about me.

“I feel rather aggrieved that Fr John would have been an ally and a colleague in what I am trying to do as bishop in this diocese.

“It’s going to take a while for reality to settle in.

“But let’s remember today just how many people turned up for his funeral.

“The crowd is immense.”