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We must re-read our history & heal our memories

By Sarah Mac Donald - 02 January, 2016

Bishop Brendan LeahyThe Bishop of Limerick has urged the Irish public to make the centenary year of the 1916 Rising one that is dedicated to “re-reading our history and healing our memories”.

In his homily at a Mass to celebrate World Day of Peace, Bishop Brendan Leahy said, “What best motivates our remembering, memory and commemoration must be the hope that we can take some step forward that will mark the history lessons of the future.”

He warned that Irish society needs to find a way to be inclusive in our remembering “After 35 years of ‘the Troubles’ as well as recent years of painful revelations of corruption, abuse and lack of integrity, we search for how to reconcile and help heal our memories.”

Bishop Leahy said that deep down we want to be able to draw close to one another in acknowledging the trauma that either we or others have lived through.

He said the context of the 1916 centenaries is “one of learning to walk through our political, social and ecclesial history together”.

“Having come through this terribly turbulent period, when great sins have been inflicted, it would be great if this year might be a year to explore how best to face that past in a way that heals, how to move from being indifferent to one another’s pain to being able to journey together positively,” he suggested.

“It will always be necessary to name the pain of the past but it is not always easy to hear or recognise sufficiently that pain in one another.”

Dr Leahy warned that while we can always draw lessons from our past, we have to be careful not to let ourselves be trapped in it or in our interpretation of it.

The Bishop of Limerick also paid tribute to the newly appointed DUP leader Arlene Foster as an example of how we can deal with the past and her desire to create a ‘more harmonious’ society in the North.

“She was almost killed at the age of 16 when the IRA tried to bomb her school bus to murder its driver, a part-time member of the security forces. There was also an attempt by the IRA to kill her police officer father. Yet, on her appointment as DUP leader she said that while the ‘Troubles have scarred Northern Ireland’s history we must not let them shape our future’.”

“We, too, as a nation have many scars but we too must not let them shape our future. It is time, in this Year of Mercy, for us to bring mercy to bear on our judgements and evaluations of situations both past and present to build a better future.”

He also paid tribute to Gordon Wilson’s ability to forgive and show mercy.

Recalling the tradition of making covenants, such as the 1912 ‘Ulster Covenant’ and the Fenian ‘oath’, the Bishop asked if this 2016 might not be a year in which Irish people make “a new covenant together – a pact of mercy, promising to enter a daily contract, as it were, in our re-reading of history together and painful situations that have scarred our lives.”

He concluded, “To motivate our commemorations this year by stipulating a communal pact of mercy would be a valuable history lesson for the future.”

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