By Susan Gately - 03 February, 2017
The Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown has said that refugees should not be turned away from the United States. Speaking after giving the traditional address on behalf of the diplomatic corps at the 2017 New Year’s Greeting Ceremony at Áras an Uachtaráin on Tuesday, the Nuncio said the executive order banning Syrian refugees and citizens of seven Muslim countries was against Christian principals.
“My personal feelings are reflected precisely in what the American bishops have said. We’re talking about people who are fleeing dangerous situations at home and who are looking for comfort and security,” said Archbishop Charles Brown, who comes from New York. “As Christians and Americans we need to welcome them and not turn them away.”
He accepted President Trump had been elected by the people of America and governments had to work with the President, but this did not mean accepting all his decisions. Christians had a duty to accept refugees with compassion and acceptance, he said, citing Pope Francis, who had urged Catholics to accept refugees in their countries.
Earlier Archbishop Brown addressed President Higgins on behalf of the diplomatic corps. In his talk he said that the centenary of the first World War showed the “tragic, unintended consequences” when countries pursued narrow national interests. Countries had a right to pursue their own national interests but not at the expense of other nations, he said.
Archbishop Brown identified inequality as the root cause of global discontent. “When inequality is not effectively addressed, established government policies and even long-standing international agreements can come under political pressure.”
Thanking the Nuncio, President Higgins said that the Archbishop represented a papacy which “continued, throughout 2016, to challenge not only growing inequalities and exclusions across our world but also the quietism with which they are being accepted.
“Pope Francis put it so well when he warned us that we should be worried if we come to a point when our consciences are anaesthetised,” said President Higgins. We can never afford to forget that peace, prosperity and equality are fundamentally based on justice, the President continued.
Turning to the UN, he said the “pinnacle of multilateralism” had “enormous, life-saving achievements to its name”, but today it was not “connected to the citizens who depend on its moral authority”.
He was critical of the way the UN’s moral purpose was frustrated at times “by the blatant pursuit of interests” and the use of the veto. “Far too often we have seen conflicts prolonged, lives lost and untold misery visited on the innocent by the deployment of vetoes.”
Looking back on 2016, the year Ireland celebrated the centenary of the Easter Rising, he said that for millions of “children, women and men” who were on the move, global leadership had fallen short. “We have seen a terrible loss of life, the displacement of entire communities, including those pertaining to small and ancient cultures, such as the Yazidis, and the destruction of civilian infrastructure in armed conflict and natural disasters across the world.”
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) estimated that over 17 million people were currently in crisis. Close to 12 million people across Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya were in need of food assistance, he said. Africa, the youthful continent, had to be allowed to be the “continent of opportunity for all Africans,” said President Higgins, and he called for the sharing of “science and technology in innovative clusters to Africa and Asia as part of our global sharing”.
In Europe and the United States, deepening inequalities, racism and xenophobia were gaining ground, he continued, “exploiting fears and ignorance in ways that could destroy democracy itself”.
He said that “Inequalities and the exclusions they breed are now being exploited by extremists, preaching claims to exclusive forms of propriety and entitlement which ignore the fundamental truth that we are all but migrants in time and space, who can best flourish in sufficiency [and] creativity, and destroy ourselves and our planet through mindless insatiability.”
There is an urgent need to look into the deep and quiet corners of those lives deprived of a right to participate at all levels of society, because these lives deserve, again in the words of Pope Francis, a “dignified welcome”, said the President.
Turning to the European Union, President Higgins said the challenge was to “recover a sense of hope and solidarity, between and within Member States. For its architects and its peoples, the European project was always about more than the creation of a single market and a single currency. It was about sharing prosperity, security in life, achieving freedom from poverty. Cohesion enjoyed as much prominence as productivity. The energy of that vision has been lost. It must be recovered.”
The loss of trust we currently see on the “European street” is alarming, continued President Higgins. “The public presentation of accommodations reached, and the formal text of policy instruments used by the EU, have, at times, had the effect of separating European institutions from the people they represent.
“The discourse has not reached the street; the words lack moral political choice or intent. Often they constitute a mask for failure, confusion, impotence or even evasion in the face of challenges. If political parties lose support, the people can decide to remove them at election time. If, however, it is institutions that lose popular support, what results is a legitimation crisis that can threaten democracy itself.”
But irrespective of its failings and imperfections, the European Union remains a visionary and vital project, he said. Northern Ireland was a “living example of the positive impact of European Union membership in supporting and framing a peace process”.