Archbishop highlights 'shattering' of values in Irish society

Sat, Mar 22, 2008, 00:00

THE CHURCH of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Rev John Neill, has cited in an Easter message a "shattering" of values in Irish society. Patsy McGarry, Religious Affairs Correspondent, reports.

He said: "We wring our hands in horror at the appalling murder of two young men from eastern Europe on the streets of the suburbs of this city - and so we should.

"But have we even begun to wrestle with the breakdown in values, the shattering of community values and family values that underlie so much of the violence in our midst?

"Many of the casualties of our modern society - casualties often represented by addiction, alienation and suicide - can be the direct result of the failure to take seriously the implications for living in this world - God's world - with the values that God has shown to us."

The Easter affirmation "Christ has been raised from the dead is about an event that reaches to the heart of Christian worship, but which must burst out into the world in which we live," he said.

The Church of Ireland primate, Archbishop Alan Harper, said that as we approached the 10th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement "only a tiny rump of 'irreconcilables' believes that there can be any going back to the deeply deplorable situation and unreconstructed relationships we once knew".

He warned: "This does not mean that we can now 'rest on our oars' and enjoy an inevitable drift to complete harmony: transformation and newness of life must be worked for and witnessed to.

"In this respect we find ourselves in a position little different from that of the disciples after the assimilation of what must have been for them both the shock and the awe of the Lord's resurrection.

"They began to realise that everything had changed, permanently and forever; but they also found themselves challenged to share the fruits of that change so that everyone who would hear could enjoy the vindication of faith and the access to grace and hope that they had come to know through the presence of the Risen Lord," Dr Harper said.

In his Easter message, the Catholic Bishop of Cloyne, the Most Rev John Magee, said: "As we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the signing of the 'Good Friday agreement . . . we give thanks to God for having brought together a once divided people so that they might respect one another as fellow citizens and work together to bring good governance to the Northern part of Ireland. They deserve the support of the entire people of our land."

He continued: "We must all be seriously concerned with the amount of violence and murder that is being perpetrated on our streets and neighbourhoods at the present time.

"Let us do all we can to respect life, in all its stages, endeavour to put an end to the terrible carnage on our roads and, in a responsible way, get control of the increasing abuse of alcohol, especially among the under-aged, and the use of drugs which continue to be a real affliction in our society of today.

"As we celebrate at Easter," Dr Magee added, "the anniversary of our own struggle for freedom as a nation may we, as a people, give a genuine welcome to all who come to our shores and who contribute so significantly to the well-being of our society."

In his final Chrism Mass on Thursday night, the retiring Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor, the Most Rev Patrick Walsh, reflected on his 25 years as a bishop. They had been "years of change in society, they have been demanding years and in many respects turbulent years".

Speaking to priests of the diocese, he said he had been "very conscious of the demands placed on you and what many of you had to cope with over the horrific years of conflict and violence with two of our number, Fr Hugh Mullan and Fr Noel Fitzpatrick, shot dead".

Over the years, Down and Connor priests "showed an exemplary steadfastness and remained at all times close to your people, especially to those who were suffering".

He concluded: "I would wish to leave with you today words of Pope Paul VI, very simple, very clear words, words that admirably sum up the life of a diocesan priest. 'Love the church and do well what the church asks you to do'."