By Sarah Mac Donald - 18 January, 2016
Pieta House was and still is a pioneer in eliminating the taboos around suicide, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said on Sunday as he marked the suicide support group’s tenth anniversary.
In his homily at a Mass in the Church of St Mary in Lucan, the Archbishop of Dublin said the taboos around suicide had damaged many troubled lives and a debt of gratitude was owed to Pieta House for breaking them down.
“From the first moment in which the idea emerged, Pieta House was truly innovative,” he told the congregation and said the group was the “fruit of sensitivity to a problem which in so many was – and to an extent still is – kept buried within Irish society”.
He said that those who established Pieta House were not content in simply providing a service, they realised that in opening a door of compassion and care and support they should also open up a door of awareness.
“The more the door opened, the more society would become aware of how significant the problems linked with suicide were in Ireland and how the worst thing that could be done in the face of this reality was to try to hide it and bury it,” he said.
The Archbishop described the suffering of those who have been helped by Pieta House as “suffering in the deepest corners of their hearts”.
He paid tribute to the generosity and care and assistance that Pieta House offers and said the voluntary nature of this care was “a sign of deep respect and personal embrace for those who suffer, without seeking any rewards or publicity”.
Emphasising that it is the truth which sets people free, Dr Martin said that facing the truth of an individual’s struggle opens the possibility of gaining help that will free them from the burdens and the entrapment that weigh down on them.
“Facing the truth about the phenomenon of suicide also frees a society to address the challenge and not to deny it or bury it. The truth frees; taboos imprison.”
He acknowledged that the Church in Ireland and farther afield contributed greatly to the level of taboo which surrounded suicide.
“A Church which loses the sense of the priority of mercy gets trapped in a priority of rules and loses the meaning of those rules. The preaching of Jesus was constantly directed against those who imposed burdens on others and never lifted a hand to help,” he underlined.
He warned that rigidity and hypocrisy always remains a temptation and won’t be combatted simply by homilies and critique.
“It will be combatted by the witness of people who show what compassionate care really means and who passionately believe that compassionate care heals and restores.”
Describing Pieta House as a story of hope and purpose, the Archbishop added, “It is a story about the burdens and the demons which way people down, but above all it is a story which sees in every person who crosses the door of Pieta House as someone with unique talent and promise and purpose.”
Referring to Sunday’s Gospel about the wedding feast of Cana, he said the wedding is a perfect parallel to the work of Pieta House.
“Pieta House provides the new wine which can allow a life which has been damaged to return to the fullness of celebration.”