Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin very much in tune with Pope Francis

Francis says church must not be ‘a comfort zone for the like-minded’

The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin gave what was, in hindsight, a remarkable sermon last Sunday. As he told The Irish Times on Thursday night, he was not aware Pope Francis had done the interviews published this week or their content. But, clearly, he has read the pope correctly.

At a Mass on Sunday marking the centenary of the parish church of Our Lady of Dolours in Glasnevin, Dr Martin said that “as a church we have to rediscover that notion of rejoicing in repentance and in welcoming the sinner, in reaching out to encounter the sinner and the unbeliever, rather than setting out conditions in advance.

“We have all too often developed a sort of puritanical, harsh and demanding church. We have set out complicated lists of sins and have often made return so much harder and humanly more difficult.

“We have made the sinner into a category to be punished and managed by rules and norms rather than a person who had gone astray, who had tarnished his or her own dignity,” he added, “whereas the only way back is to reach out, embrace and restore that dignity.”


Pope Francis, the archbishop said, “ has an amazing ability to find simple words to pose fundamental questions about the life of the Christian and of the church. He challenges us to become ‘the tender embrace of the Jesus’ for all who are marginalised and on the fringes and on the frontiers of the society in which we live.

“He does not simply say, as a theological statement, that the church is the tender embrace of Christ’s love. He challenges us to become that tender embrace.

"We can repeat doctrinal formulae ad nauseam. We can enounce moral teaching with clinical clarity, but all of that will be worthless and the church's teaching will appear to others like any other ideology, if we do not reflect in our lives – personal and institutional – the tender embrace of the God revealed in Jesus Christ.

“Pope Francis has noted that at times we feel that the fail- ures in our evangelising efforts are due to the fact that so many in today’s world are closed to God; they do not hear the call of Jesus; that when Jesus knocks on our doors we do not let him in. The pope however counters that by adding, ‘We also fail at times when Jesus knocks from within and we do not let him out’.

“The church must reach out. An inward looking, self-centred, narcissistic church will never witness to the generosity and care of Jesus Christ.”

Dr Martin is, clearly, very much in tune with Pope Francis. The hope must be that other Irish Catholic Church leaders, and Irish Catholics generally, will soon follow, then a new and better history for Catholicism in Ireland can begin.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times