Bishop says North afflicted by political ‘sclerosis’

New Catholic Bishop of Derry says ‘much work’ remains to be done

Dr Donal McKeown, the new Bishop of Derry: ‘as Christians of various traditions, we have an opportunity and a duty to be sources of hope, especially when political sclerosis seems to have afflicted out body politic’

The failure of the Northern Ireland Assembly "to focus on delivering the reforms that people need" was addressed this afternoon by the newly installed Catholic Bishop of Derry Dónal McKeown.

In a homily at the installation ceremony in Derry’s St Eugene’s Cathedral he said that “as Christians of various traditions, we have an opportunity and a duty to be sources of hope, especially when political sclerosis seems to have afflicted out body politic”.

He said “ I know that many politicians are embarrassed at the failure of the NI Assembly to focus on delivering the reforms that people need. But, as Churches, we cannot merely criticise them. We have the chance to play the part of critical friends, speaking on behalf of the many who feel that human need are being neglected in the service of political priorities. There is no more room in society for self-referential politics than there is for a Church that falls prey to ecclesial introversion.”

He continued that “Our society knows many places where people feel discarded or beyond hope. Many people feel prisoners of their past while others seem to glide on, presumed masters of their future. That can happen because of neglect and abuse in its multiple forms; it can come from ill health or lack of satisfying chances to contribute to society; it can be reinforced by being labelled in education or social status; it can be born from the mistakes that they or others have made.


He said that "Pope Francis is quite explicit that many people feel crushed "by the economy of exclusion", scorned by "the new idolatry of money", victims of a "financial system which rules rather than serves" and prisoners of the "inequality which spawns violence". In saying this he is not being modern or new. He is simply reflecting the Jesus of the Gospel."

Bishop McKeown said “in this springtime of our society and our churches in Ireland, there is much work to be done if the new season is to bear mellow fruitfulness. The ground needs to tilled, the weeds removed, the new seed planted.

“We may not be the ones to reap the harvest. But how we work today in the hard ground that characterises the peripheries, will determine where the next generation will be able to dream or just be trapped in a cycle of recurrent nightmares, devoid of hope and victims to shallow promises of salvation through bling and botox.”

This morning, before the installation ceremony, Bishop McKeown visited the Church of Ireland's Christ Church in the city where he was warmly welcomed by the congregation and rector Rev Robert Miller who presented him with a Book of Psalms and extended his heartfelt good wishes.

Bishop McKeown (63) was born in Belfast but raised at Randalstown Co Antrim. President of St Malachy's College Belfast from 1995, he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor diocese in 2001. In Derry he succeeds Bishop Séamus Hegarty who retired in November 2011 for health reasons.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times