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The Church must change, says Archbishop of Dublin

By Susan Gately - 19 April, 2019

Diarmuid Martin expresses distress and indignation at interim report on Mother and Baby Homes. “I find it hard to believe that evidence has simply vanished and that no one can remember.”

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. Pic John Mc Elroy.

The Church has to change, the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, said on Wednesday at the Chrism Mass in the Pro Cathedral, adding that he was left with “profound distress, even indignation” at the Interim Report by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

“We are the Church of Jesus Christ. Jesus considered children as a sign of his Kingdom. What went wrong to give rise to a situation in which children within the Church of Jesus Christ were not cared for with scrupulous dignity, whether in life or in death? I find it hard to believe that evidence has simply vanished and that no one can remember.”

In his homily, the Archbishop of Dublin looked back on his 15 years celebrating the Chrism Mass. “The diocese has undoubtedly changed for the good over these years,” he said. “We have today parishes that have never been so vibrant at any other time in their history.”

But the Church in Dublin had also experienced the “the dramatic effects of the crisis of sexual abuse”. We move forward, he continued, not whitewashing the past, but recognising how our parish communities have responded with great dedication, putting into place and supporting child protection structures of which we can be rightly proud.

Parishes were changing, with parents more actively involved in sacramental preparation, new efforts in faith formation and, in Lent, “an extraordinary range of forward looking events and programmes directed at renewal”. The indications are that the years to come will witness a new sense of mission and purpose, he said.

But the Archbishop of Dublin, who reaches retirement age next April, agreed that culture was changing, with almost half of 24- to 29-year-olds in Dublin registered in the last census as having no religion. “Only a few of the parishes within the two Dublin canals have a majority Catholic population. Our ministry and outreach has to take place within that changing reality. We have to identify and recognise that reality,” he said.

To look towards the future, continued Archbishop Martin, means to extricate oneself from the contingencies of the past to be free to look dispassionately to the future. Young people are growing up in a very pluralist culture and have to be supported and accompanied in finding a strong personalised faith.

Referring to the blessing of the oils liturgy, the Archbishop of Dublin said a word that appeared constantly was the word “fragrance”. He said: “The worshipping community is called to be fragrance within society. Our faith communities must always be communities that reach out, touching the hearts of all who search for meaning. People today come to faith through being attracted rather than having something imposed.”

Meanwhile, at the Chrism Mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Armagh on Wednesday, Archbishop Eamon Martin urged priests to return to the source of their vocation – God who is love.

“My dear brother priests, we chose our vocation because we too [like married couples] were ‘prompted by love’. Imagine if someone was to ask: are you happy in the priesthood? Might you answer: ‘Of course I’m happy –  I’m in love with Christ! That is what sustains me as a priest. I celebrate it every day in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I dispense His merciful love in the confessional; I anoint the sick and the dying with the healing love of Christ; what marks me out as a priest is the love I have for the people I serve’?”

In a country of dwindling vocations, Christians are challenged to “present the vocation to priesthood, to consecrated life and to marriage, as fulfilling vocations to love God who loved us first! Only a committed witness to the joy of love will attract young people to faithful, lifelong commitment and service of any kind,” he concluded.

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