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Primate expresses solidarity with students over exams crisis

By Sarah Mac Donald - 07 May, 2020

As teachers unions met on Wednesday evening to discuss the crisis over this year’s Leaving Certificate exams, the Primate of All Ireland urged students to “Hold on to hope!”

Though the Department of Education is still hoping to hold the exams beginning on 29th July, it remains unclear if they will go ahead.

A contingency plan for awarding grades to Leaving Certificate students in the event that the exams are cancelled is being discussed by teachers unions, the Examinations Board, as well as parents and students representatives.

In his letter to both Leaving Cert students and A Level students, Archbishop Eamon Martin acknowledged how hard the uncertainty over the exams has been.

As Archbishop of Armagh, a diocese which has parishes both in Northern Ireland and the Republic, and students under the British educational system and the Irish educational system, Dr Martin told the students, “I want to let you know that you are especially in my thoughts and prayers at this difficult time.”

He explained that he has spoken to many students in recent weeks over the phone and he has also been contacted by students by letter and email, asking him to remember them in Mass and his prayers.

“I know that, for many of you, the uncertainty of this year has been hard to cope with,” the Archbishop said.

He added that the Covid-19 emergency had “turned our world upside down and everywhere it has brought feelings of isolation, anxiety and helplessness”.

“It has interrupted so many plans – for weddings, First Communions and Confirmations, travel and holidays. For you, it has gatecrashed what is such an important and special year in your lives, and it has left you wondering: what happens next?”

But Archbishop Martin, who taught for a number of years in St Columb’s College in Derry, stressed that the virus has not destroyed goodness and love.

“Our response to it has actually brought out the very best in so many people. I have seen first-hand the amazing voluntary efforts that you and many others have been making to reach out to the elderly and marginalised, and to spread a message of hope for a better and brighter future.”

In his letter, Dr Martin said his message to the students was “Hold on to hope!” or as Pope Francis put it: “Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope!”

The Archbishop revealed that one of his favourite lines in the Bible is, “Every day, as long as this today lasts, keep encouraging one another (Heb3:13).”

He thanked the students for keeping in touch with each other and for encouraging each other.

“Thank you to your teachers for being there for you online and for helping to keep your spirits up. Thank you to your parents, families and good friends who have been rallying around you and who will always be there for you – no matter what.”

He told the students that some day they will look back on 2020 and tell their children and grandchildren about the way the coronavirus tried to spoil their dreams.

“I hope you will go on to describe how the opposite happened – it actually led to a strengthening of your character, your belief in yourself, your empathy for others, and your faith in God. I promise to keep you in my prayers and I offer you my blessing and support for the days ahead.”

Live streaming of Masses and Services from churches in Ireland and the UK can be found here: http://churchservices.tv

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