Racism and intolerance are ‘dangerous explosives’ – Diarmuid Martin

Fear of immigrants can be exploited in terms to support narrow populism says archbishop

Racism and intolerance “are dangerous explosives that we only play around with at our own peril”, Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said.

“Lack of respect for difference can undermine even peaceful societies. Fear of the immigrant can be exploited in terms that support narrow populism,” he said.

Archbishop Martin was speaking at the annual World Day of Peace Mass held yesterday morning at the Church of St Therese in Dublin's Mount Merrion.

He recalled how in 1968 "Pope Paul VI had the intuition that the Church should dedicate the first day of each calendar year as a World Day of Peace. The first day of the calendar year is one on which people of different backgrounds – not simply people of faith – naturally think about a future of peace. Again, this year we take up Pope Paul's intuition."

Pope Francis, he said, had placed as the central theme of his message for the day "Peace as a Journey of Hope".

Archbishop Martin recalled how "coming to this Church this morning, my thoughts turned toward your former parish priest, Fr Tony Coote. What struck all of us about Tony in his dramatic illness, is that even in the face of the inevitability of death, he never abandoned hope. If anything he gave others hope. The more his physical abilities faded, the stronger his witness became. Hope is the virtue of the strong. Hope is not a pipedream. Hope is realism."

Fr Coote (55) died last August, 18 months after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

Rereading of history

"It was people who never abandoned hope who led to the peace process in Ireland, " the Archbishop said.

However, he warned that “the tolerance that led to peace can be undermined quickly. History can be read through the lens of different memories. The hard-earned common memories that led to understanding and respect can be quickly undermined by a malicious and deceptive rereading of the same history.”

Pope Francis had placed “the idea of ecological conversion at the centre of the endeavour for peace”, he said, but it was the case that “our young people understand this in a way that my generation failed to do”.

He concluded: "This morning we give thanks for the peacemakers of today, those of faith and of other backgrounds. We give thanks for the peacemakers in our own country. We give thanks for those who work to consolidate our Europe as a place of peace and welcome.

"We give thanks for the work of our Defence Forces in places of conflict around the world. We give thanks for our gardaí who are servants of peace for us all. We give thanks for those who write and dream of peace and who, without fear, challenge our innate prejudices.

“May the God of Peace bless us and purify his Church from intolerance and abuse. May we never lose the gift of hope and may God bless those whose hope is put to the test.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times