By Susan Gately - 28 December, 2014
Viewing life as a gift was the central theme of the annual Christmas Day Message by the Archbishops of Armagh – the Catholic Primate, Most Revd Eamon Martin and the Church of Ireland Primate, Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke.
In their message broadcast nationally across Ireland and Northern Ireland on RTÉ 1, the Church leaders appealed to the public to give the gift of blood and to consider being an organ donor.
“Today we want to reflect upon gifts that many of us could give and yet have probably never thought to give. The ʻfleshandblood campaign’ as it’s known, encourages people to consider becoming a blood or organ donor as a testimony of Christian charity and love for our neighbour,” said Archbishop Clarke.
Earlier the two archbishops visited a blood donation session in Carrickmore, County Tyrone run by the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service.
“Each year on the whole island of Ireland nearly 100,000 people receive blood or blood products. Donated blood is normally used by hospitals within 5 to 7 days of collection. Your blood could help save a life,” said Archbishop Eamon Martin.
“It could go to a mother during childbirth, to someone with cancer, to a person undergoing routine surgery or even be used in the traumatic aftermath of a road traffic accident.”
The Blood Transfusion Services in Ireland need about 30,000 new or returning donors each year, but at present only 3% to 6% of the eligible population actually give blood, according to Paul McElkerney from the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service who expressed his appreciation of the leaders’ support for its campaign.
“With the help of all churches we will be able to continue to meet the demand for blood and blood products to help save the lives of patients in all our hospitals,” he said.
In addition to the need for blood donors, there are currently somewhere between 500 and 1,000 people in Ireland on an active transplant waiting list.
Archbishop Clarke described organ donation as “a powerful expression of human solidarity and of Christian charity”, helping to build a “culture of life.”
The Christmas broadcast aired as the major Christian denominations in Ireland united around the ‘fleshandblood’ campaign, encouraging their members to consider blood and organ donation as part of their giving. Approximately 45% of the Irish population regularly attend church.
“We are giving a commitment to encourage more of our members to be blood donors and to register for organ donation, so that in the physical sense, we have the opportunity to give hope and help transform lives,” said Rev Peter Murray, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland.
It has already received widespread support in the UK across churches, community groups and from government ministers in Westminster, resulting in thousands of new people registering as donors.
Founded as a partnership between Kore and NHS Blood and Transplant, the campaign aims to raise the profile of donation within churches and encourage donation as a personal gift.
It seeks to equip individuals and churches as advocates for donation helping them engage with their family, friends and community.
In addition to the Catholic and Anglican churches, the campaign is supported by the Salvation Army, Methodist Church, United Reformed Church, Baptist Union, Church In Wales, Church of Scotland, Seventh Day Adventist Church, Hope Together and Evangelical Alliance.