Family, friends, colleagues, parishioners and priests crowded into St George's Cathedral on Sunday evening to say farewell to Canon James Cronin who has completed 15 years as dean of Southwark's Roman Catholic cathedral.
Canon Cronin said that when he saw the word 'tributes' on the service sheet for the Sunday evening Mass he thought it seemed a bit like a funeral and he thought so again when he spotted well-known local funeral director Barry Albin-Dyer in the congregation.
James Cronin has been appointed as national director of Missio, the Roman Catholic Church's support organisation for overseas mission.
He introduced the Mass by saying that it was "a delight to see so many people".
In his sermon he spoke about the decline in vocations to the priesthood. "We have had a very interesting and rewarding life," he said referring to his generation of priests.
He said that he found the prospect of going to work for Missio exciting because it was "pure gospel".
Mary Ney, speaking for the parish, said: "When you came the roof was leaking, the heating did not work and the wiring was in a terrible state. You have tackled and renovated parts of the cathedral and house and the Amigo Hall which has left a lasting legacy to the parish."
She also highlighted Canon Cronin's leadership on child protection issues and his support for the cathedral's primary school.
"You always enjoyed the rich diversity of this parish," she added in recalling the introduction of the Spanish language Mass.
Among others paying tribute were Simon Hughes MP and Southwark Civic Association chairman Ken Hayes. The Mayor of Southwark Lorraine Lauder presented a farewell gift of crystal glass from the association. The Children's Liturgy Group sang a song.
A book of messages and a cheque from the parish were presented by Fr John Diver who spoke of the dean's laughter.
Among those in the sanctuary were the Archbishop of Southwark Peter Smith and his predecessor Michael Bowen.
Afterwards James Cronin said: "It's been a privilege to be in Southwark. It's a very a exciting area."
The new dean is Canon John O'Toole who has been director of the Christian Education Centre at Tooting Bec. He took up his duties at the cathedral in mid June and will be welcomed during a Mass on Friday 8 July at 7pm.