1916 commemorations should not glorify violence, says bishop

Commemorations should reflect on what unites people rather than divides them

Bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr John Buckley said the commemoration of the Easter Rising should be a time for reflection rather than celebration with an emphasis on what unites people rather than divides them. Photograph: Cyril Byrne /The Irish Times

Bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr John Buckley said the commemoration of the Easter Rising should be a time for reflection rather than celebration with an emphasis on what unites people rather than divides them. Photograph: Cyril Byrne /The Irish Times

 

The forthcoming centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising should be commemorated in a way that respects all past differences and neither glorifies violence retrospectively nor adds to tension in Northern Ireland, a Catholic bishop has warned.

Bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr John Buckley, a native of Inchigeelagh in West Cork, said the commemoration of the Easter Rising should be a time for reflection rather than celebration with an emphasis on what unites people rather than divides them.

Announcing details of a special mass for Peace and Reconciliation to be held in Holy Trinity Church in Cork city on Sunday, April 3, Bishop Buckley said the mass would be inclusive and remember all those who lost their lives in Easter Week 1916.

“Our Mass will be a time for reflection not celebration. We visit our history, not to find what divides but what unites us. We will pray for the four hundred and eighty five men, women and children who died violently in 1916, on whatever side or none,” said Bishop Buckley.

“We, as people of faith, pray also for the British soldiers and the RIC members who died on the streets of Dublin, many of whom were Irish. We will also remember the five hundred and eighty Irish soldiers who died on the Western Front in the First World War during that week.

“Indeed, some of those who survived received a very cold reception when they returned home. We will pray also for those who died during the violence in Northern Ireland including the many people who are still suffering from its effects to this day.”

He said there was “a thin line between celebration and commemoration” and he stressed it was important that the 1916 commemoration “does not glorify violence retrospectively” as there was always a danger that anniversaries have the potential to influence people negatively.

“Sadly, the threat of violence has not completely disappeared. There is no moral legitimacy whatsoever for violence today ...... The Good Friday Agreement democratically and peacefully removed any remaining cause of conflict,” he said.

“We should be extremely careful in case the celebrations would, in any way, contribute to an increased tension in Northern Ireland. It has been said that aspects of the 1966 commemoration were subsequently used to justify violence. Our aim should be to promote friendship and harmony.”

Bishop Buckley welcomed “the fact that a Commemorative Wall is to be erected in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin which will bear the names of all who died in 1916 regardless of which side they were on - or if they were on no side - and whether they were bearing arms or not.”

Bishop Buckley said that although the official Catholic Church of the time condemned the Rising, it acknowledged that the Irish Volunteers who took up arms against the British state were men “of high idealism and sell-sacrifice who really they believed they were pursuing a noble cause”.

And he noted many of the leaders of the Easter Rising such as Patrick Pearse and Joseph Mary Plunkett were deeply religious as reflected in their poetry such as Iosagain and I see His blood upon the Rose and people should not “forget the religious spirit that animated the Rising”.

“As Pearse said in 1915 at the grave O’Donovan Rossa, ‘Splendid and holy causes are best served by splendid and holy people’. Indeed, the religious and cultural legacy of the 1916 leaders, which reflected the Church’s social teaching at the time, may be as significant as their political legacy.”