By Sarah Mac Donald - 19 October, 2014
At a Mass in Armagh Cathedral hosted by Her Excellency, Alicia Castro, Ambassador of Argentina to the UK, Archbishop Eamon Martin said it would take courageous and creative leadership on the part of Northern Ireland’s political representatives.
The Mass was held for Pope Francis’ Universal Prayer Intention for Peace and Dialogue.
In his homily, Archbishop Martin told the congregation, including NI’s Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, that it would also take “leadership that has enough self-belief and commitment to the greater good to look beyond the next election or purely party-political interests.”
The Archbishop warned, “If we just keep on digging trenches for ourselves then there is a real risk that confidence in the ability of politics to resolve problems will be undermined.”
He prayed that politicians would have “open minds and generous hearts during these talks, together with steady nerves and prudent speech.”
“I appeal strongly to them on behalf of so many people to make the talks work this time. I am confident that many of us in the Churches and civic society stand ready to play our part in making their agreements work on the ground.”
He said to be missionaries of peace, like St Francis and Pope Francis, courage which comes from God is needed.
Recalling Pope Francis’ invitation earlier this year to the Israeli President, Shimon Perez, and the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, to pray with him in the Vatican Gardens, Archbishop Martin said before praying the Pope told the two leaders, “Peace-making calls for courage, much more so than warfare.”
“It calls for the courage to say yes to encounter and no to conflict; yes to dialogue and no to violence.” He continued, “But such courage is beyond our own power, for ‘the evil one’ subverts the human efforts at peace.”
Referring to Pope Francis’s visit last month to the war cemetery at Redipuglia in Italy to mark the centenary of the beginning of the war, the Pontiff recalled how his own grandfather, Giovanni Bergoglio, who had fought near there, had been left with bitter and painful memories for the rest of his life.
In his sermon that day, Pope Francis said, “War is madness … war destroys. It ruins the most beautiful work of God’s hands: human beings. War ruins everything, even the bonds between brothers. War is irrational; its only plan is to bring destruction.”
Dr Martin said the prayer intentions for peace and dialogue have been close to the Holy Father’s heart since his election as pope.
“He speaks out often for peace and justice and he has already taken courageous initiatives to draw attention to the futility of war and to the way that so many innocent children, women and men have had their livelihoods destroyed in horrific conflicts all over the world.”
The Archbishop reminded the congregation in Armagh cathedral that even at the Synod on the Family in Rome, the bishops, gathered with Pope Francis, expressed their “pastoral concern and profound closeness” to all families who suffer as a consequence of war.
In particular, they remembered “Iraqi and Syrian families, forced on account of their profession of the Christian faith or their belonging to other ethnic or religious communities, to abandon everything and flee towards a future without any form of certainty.”