John Hume knighted by Pope Benedict

John Hume John Hume was also awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for work during the Troubles

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Former SDLP leader John Hume has been made a Knight Commander of St Gregory by Pope Benedict.

It comes more than 13 years after John Hume was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his work during the Troubles.

A former teacher, Mr Hume first came to prominence through the civil rights movement in the late 1960s.

He helped to found the moderate nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party in 1970, taking over as leader in 1979.

During his time in the public eye, Mr Hume was respected and admired on both sides of the sectarian divide and was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his reconciliation work with Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble in 1998.

Michael Kelly from the Irish Catholic newspaper said this was a "very prestigious honour from the Vatican" which few received.

"This is a senior knighthood, it is not conferred lightly at all," he said.

Mr Kelly said he had been recognised as he was a "tireless witness for human rights".

"It is very clear it's his profound Catholic faith which has propelled his work in this sphere."

Mr Kelly said it was likely that Mr Hume would be knighted by the papal nuncio in Londonderry.

SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie commended the former party leader on Twitter.

"Congrats to John Hume on being awarded a Papal Knighthood by His Holiness Pope Benedict," she said.

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