In a Word . . . Bell

 

The bells. The bells. Now there’s an intriguing word, campanology. You might be forgiven for thinking it was a study of over-the-top behaviour by particularly effete gay men. It’s not. Unless they are over-the-top effete gay men with bells and whistles. Bells, being the operative word.

Tomorrow witnesses a unique event at the Church of Ireland Christ Church Cathedral in Waterford. There Ireland’s former president Mary McAleese will mark this St Patrick’s weekend in a special way. She will launch the newly repaired cathedral bells, resoundingly, at 11am.

This will not be just any old bell ringing. An idea of Dean of Waterford Maria Jansson, the pealing cathedral bells will be accompanied by ringing church bells far and wide as an assurance to the stranger that he or she is welcome. Wherever bells ring out.

It will be, as the Dean said, “an appropriate response to the cacophony of hatred which gets more frightening every day across Europe” in attitudes to refugees and immigrants. “As a woman and a Christian,” she had to do something.

Mary McAleese welcomed the idea as “a timely, simple but profound initiative which I hope will be copied by many churches throughout Europe and other parts of the world”.

She reminded people that St Patrick “was an immigrant to Ireland and by any standards, despite considerable personal suffering, one of the most successful in history”.

The bells today will be “ringing a message of love, hope and inclusion that we hope will bring comfort to the men, women and children whose lives are blighted by the hatred and bigotry of those who would deny them their dignity and rights as human beings”, she said.

They will also underline the sentiment of John Donne’s great poem, that: No man is an island, / Entire of itself. / Each is a piece of the continent, / A part of the main. / If a clod be washed away by the sea, / Europe is the less. / As well as if a promontory were. / As well as if a manor of thine own / Or of thine friend’s were. / Each man’s death diminishes me, / For I am involved in mankind. / Therefore, send not to know / For whom the bell tolls, / It tolls for thee.

To which Dean Jansson would add: “Ring out misogyny, hate, xenophobia and fear. Ring in solidarity, truth and justice.”

Bell from Middle English bellen, Old English bellan or belle, to roar.

inaword@irishtimes.com

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