Edward H. Flannery was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on 20th August 1912; the son of John and Elizabeth (née Mulvey) Flannery. His father John was the son of Bryan and Bridget (née Connor) Flannery of Bockagh townland near Ballaghderreen, County Mayo (County Roscommon after boundary revision in 1898). Bryan married Bridget in Ballaghaderreen on 10th November 1872. John was baptised in Ballaghaderreen on 27th June 1879, and married Elizabeth on 20th September 1909 in Providence where he served as a Police Officer.
Edward studied at St. Charles College in Cantonville; earned a bachelor's degree at St. Sulpice Seminary near Paris; a master's degree at Catholic University in Washington; and a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Hebrew Union College. He was ordained for the Diocese of Providence in 1937, and served the diocese for three decades in pastoral and chaplain's posts and editor of the diocessan newspaper: the Providence Visitor.
He was a pioneer in inter-religious efforts based in New York. Edward served as Associate Director of the Institute of Judeo-Christian Studies at Seton Hall University (1965 - 1967); Executive Secretary of the Secretariat for Catholic-Jewish Relations of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (1967 - 1977); consultant to the Vatican Secretariat of Catholic-Jewish Relations; Director of the Office of Continuing Education of the Clergy in the Diocese of Providence (1976 - 1986); and President of the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel (1985 - 1988).
Edward received the Benemerenti Medal from Pope Paul VI, as well as numerous awards and citations from the National Conference of Christians and Jews and other organisations.
He wrote “Anguish of the Jews : Twenty-three Centuries of Anti-Semitism” (1965), a study of anti-Semitism through the ages. This scholarly study was revised and expanded in 1985, and remains a landmark publication. He also wrote "The Face of Sin" (1967) and "The Holocaust: its Meaning for Christians and Jews" (1977). Throughout his career, Edward was a staunch supporter of Israel and, as President of the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel, he publicly expressed his commitment to the American-Israel friendship. Through his work he displayed great sensitivity to issues of the Holocaust and strong promotion of education of the history of anti-Semitism, well serving both the Jewish and Catholic communities.
Edward celebrated the 60th anniversary of his ordination in 1997. On this occasion, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham H. Forman, stated ...
“His magnificent spirit, his emphatic heart, his great mind walk with prophets and kings and all those who ennoble the world with their courage and character.”
These sentiments were reinforced by the ADL Director of Interfaith Affairs, Rabbi Leon Klenicki, who said ...
“I know Edward’s limitless energy for dialogue and friendship. He is a person of God, sharing his spirituality with all of us. God bless him.”
Edward died on 19th October 1998, aged 86.
[his portrait is illustrated above; courtesy of his book (1965)]