Fr. Aengus Finucane and Irish President Mary McAleese

Fr. Aengus Finucane, an African aid pioneer and founder of the Third World charity Concern, has died.

The 77-year-old passed away in the Spiritan Fathers’ nursing home in Kimmage in Dublin after a short illness.

Four decades ago, the Limerick-born priest was working as a missionary in war-torn Biafra, a region trying to break free from Nigeria, and was consistently confronted with famine.

This inspired Fr. Finucane and his parishioners to brave bombing raids in order to unload relief cargoes at a local airstrip.

Fr. Finucane went on to set up the global aid organization Concern with his fellow missionaries.

During his 16 years as Concern’s CEO, the priest helped the organization to expand to 11 new countries, and inspired a whole generation of Concern volunteers.

He later became Concern’s Honorary President, and was responsible for raising funds in the U.S.

Concern Worldwide’s current CEO Tom Arnold described Fr. Finucane as “one of the greatest men of his generation,” and said in a statement: “Aengus will be deeply mourned and missed by thousands of people, in Ireland and across the world.”

Arnold went on to write on the organization’s Web site: “While deeply saddened by the passing of Aengus, we celebrate the scale of his life achievement. There can be few Irish people of his generation, or of any other generation, who have contributed as much to improving the lives of so much of humanity. In doing so, he enjoyed life and made it very enjoyable for all who knew him. May he rest in peace.”

The Irish Government has responded to Fr. Finucane’s death with tributes being paid to by Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin and Minister of State for Overseas Development Peter Power.

In a joint statement, the Ministers said: “Fr. Aengus Finucane has been a tireless force for good across the globe for more than four decades.

"Fr. Finucane harnessed his great energy, commitment and kindness to effect real improvements in the lives of the poor and those devastated by war and disaster."

The beloved Irish priest is survived by two sisters and three brothers.