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One year on, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin reflects on Papal visit

By Cian Molloy - 26 August, 2019

"The Church must learn anew the ability to speak the things of God – not to flee from the realities of life, but to challenge the men and women of our time and the culture of our time to become the seedbed of a new humanity."

Pope Francis, left, and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.

A changing Ireland needs a Church that demonstrates the love of Jesus.

That was the message from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin yesterday in a homily that reflected on the Pope’s visit last year.

Speaking during the 11 o’clock Mass at St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, the Archbishop noted that it was almost exactly to the hour the first anniversary of Pope Francis’s arrival at Dublin Airport to attend the World Meeting of Families 2018.

Archbishop Martin said the most striking aspect of the Pope’s visit was how he sought forgiveness for the Church’s sins of the past and the horrific abuses committed by Church personnel.

“Many would hardly have noticed the first thing that Pope Francis did when he came into the Pro-Cathedral,” the Archbishop said.

“He went to the altar on my left and prayed in silence before a candle that has been burning for some years now, recalling the suffering of those who were abused within the Church. That candle is special to me in that it was not my idea or the idea of the Church establishment but of survivors themselves.

“The Pope later met with a small group of victims and survivors at a meeting that lasted three times the time foreseen. The Pope listened and was deeply moved.”

The Archbishop said that when Pope Francis arrived in Croke Park just hours later he showed the Archbishop how he had already drafted a revised penitential rite for the Mass the next morning in the Phoenix Park, taking up the themes that the survivors had indicated.

“In that revised penitential rite the Pope said things that the Church in Ireland has at times been slow to accept. He spoke of young people who in Church institutions had been exploited for their labour. He spoke of members of the hierarchy who took no responsibility for those painful situations. He spoke about the difficulties experienced by single mothers trying to find their children and children trying to find their mothers and who at times were told that such searching was a mortal sin.

“His response was simple, but sharp and unequivocal: ‘That was not mortal sin, it was the fourth commandment’.”

The Pope also spoke about the importance of prayer in Christian life. “Prayer is not running away from the harsh realities of life,” Archbishop Martin reflected. “It is placing ourselves in the presence of the God of love and thus feeling compelled to reflect the love of God in the way we live and bring that love into the world in which we live.

“The Church must learn anew the ability to speak the things of God – not to flee from the realities of life, but to challenge the men and women of our time and the culture of our time to become the seedbed of a new humanity.

“Ireland is changing. The Church is changing. The message of the Church must be a message of hope and love that touches the heart especially of our young people. We need a new generation of hope.”

Archbishop Martin acknowledged that many people judged the success of the Papal visit in terms of the fewer than expected numbers who attended the Papal events at the Phoenix Park and at Knock, but that there was “another side to the story”.

He noted that the Pope was greeted with great enthusiasm by the people of Dublin as he travelled through the city’s streets. The Festival of Families in Croke Park was a spectacular event, and the visit to the Capuchin Day Centre for the Homeless with Brother Kevin was unique, with the Pope very much at home with those less fortunate. Another quite stand-out event was the Pope’s meeting with newly-married and engaged couples in the Pro-Cathedral, where the hope for loving commitment and happiness was visible.

Archbishop Martin concluded his homily by saying that he knows that his time as Archbishop of Dublin is drawing to a close. “People ask me how I feel,” he said. “My answer is simple. I have trust in the Lord and confidence in the ability and the commitment of a younger generation of priests and people to lead the Church and indeed to lead and inspire me on a path of renewal of the Church in our changing times.

“A changing Ireland needs a Church that credibly speaks of and incarnates the message of Jesus, who embraces each one of us in his love.”

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