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“The campaign to protect the lives of unborn children has only just begun”

By Sarah Mac Donald - 19 June, 2018

Bishop Leo O'Reilly of Kilmore speaks to pilgrims in Knock about the outcome of the abortion referendum and pays tribute to “the army of people, young and old, who campaigned to retain the Eighth Amendment”.

Bishop Leo O’Reilly. Courtesy: AngloCelt.ie

The campaign to protect the lives of unborn children in Ireland has not ended, it has only just begun, Bishop Leo O’Reilly told pilgrims gathered in Knock on Sunday for the Diocese of Kilmore’s annual pilgrimage.

In his homily, the Bishop of Kilmore spoke of his shock and sadness at the result of the recent referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

He said he was shocked that so many people voted to remove an article from the Constitution which protected the lives of the weakest and most vulnerable members of society – unborn children.

But the overwhelming feeling was one of sadness: sadness that the culture of life that marked maternity care in Ireland, and that was so successful in protecting the lives of mothers and their unborn children, has now been fatally undermined.

“At this time, we are all in need of new hope and encouragement,” he acknowledged.

Stating that there was a new reality in Ireland in which the Church is no longer the dominant voice in society, he added, “We have the reality that many are now cultural Catholics rather than Catholics by conviction.”

Underlining that Ireland is now mission territory, he said that from now on the Church’s focus must be mission rather than maintenance.

The Church of today, Dr O’Reilly said, is no longer the dominant power in society that it was in the past.

“But it is still very much present. No longer, we hope, imposing on people, but welcoming all who wish to shelter in its shade.”

“We are called to be a humbler Church today, but to still be a hospitable one. We must never forget that the Church is not for the perfect, but for sinners.”

Elsewhere in his homily, the Bishop of Kilmore said one of the things that gives him hope since the referendum is “the army of people, young and old, who campaigned to retain the Eighth Amendment”.

“I am lost in admiration for the people involved, for their courage and their courtesy: the people who organised, the people who raised funds, the people who spoke with such charity and conviction in the media and the people who canvassed.”

He told them that they are “the new evangelists” who have been “sowing the seed of the Gospel of Life in homes and hearts the length and breadth of Ireland”.

Due to their efforts, the dream of the Second Vatican Council for the role of the laity in the Church was coming true.

“For the first time in my life we have had a nationwide mission of evangelisation led and carried out – not by bishops, priests or religious – but by lay people.”

This, Bishop O’Reilly said, was a mission, not preached in churches, but rather in radio and TV studios, in hotels and homes, on doorsteps and streets. “That is truly a quiet revolution,” he commented.

Acknowledging that those who had campaigned for the retention of the Eighth Amendment may be disappointed with the result, he urged them not to be.

“You must have the patience of the farmer in the other parable of today’s Gospel. He is the one who sowed the seed and waited night and day for months with no sign of results. But the seed was still growing. You must trust in the power of God who can turn a tiny mustard seed into a great shrub. You have been preaching the Gospel of Life. It may be months or years before that seed grows.”

“You will never know when the word you spoke on a doorstep about the value of human life will touch the heart of the hearer when they need to hear it. The important thing is that you sowed the seed. And that you keep sowing.”

He said the role of lay people in the Church had taken a decisive turn.

“You have gone out, two by two, as the first disciples did, to sow the seed of the Gospel. I pray that this will be the beginning of a new phase in the Church’s mission of evangelisation, and especially of spreading the Gospel of Life. The campaign to protect the lives of unborn children in Ireland has not ended. It has only just begun.”

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