World can draw inspiration from pope, says President Higgins

Missionaries praised for standing in solidarity with people across developing world

The world can draw inspiration from Pope Francis and Irish missionaries had been wonderful ambassadors for Ireland and for their faith, President Michael D Higgins has said. He looked forward, he said, to welcoming the pontiff to Ireland next August.

He was speaking at Áras an Uachtaráin where he launched the Laudato Tree project, an environmental initiative of the Society of African Missions (SMA) congregation.

Inspired by Pope Francis 's 2015 Laudato Si encyclical on the environment it will link the planting of trees in Ireland, in the lead up to the World Meeting of Families in Dublin next August, with planting along Africa's Great Green Wall intended to combat desertification on that continent.

“I believe that the global community can draw inspiration from Pope Francis, who has, throughout his pontificate, offered words of hope and inspiration in times when they are desperately needed,” said President Higgins.


It is also a "great honour" to have papal nuncio Archbishop Jude Okolo in attendance, he said. "May I express how much I, as Uachtarán na hÉireann, look forward to welcoming Pope Francis to Ireland this August," he added.

Ireland's special solidarity with Africa had "reached its highest expression in the work of the Society of African Missions and the Missionary Sisters of our Lady of Apostles", there, he said.

To the missionaries present, he added,“your compassion, hope and courage has been truly exemplary. Most of you have committed your lives to standing in solidarity with communities across the developing world. With them, you have built schools and clinics and you have planted trees.

"You have helped the most vulnerable within those societies and stood with them against injustice and oppression. Many of you have lived within communities in the Sahel Region and in other areas facing similar challenges and have supported them in their efforts to withstand and adapt to the changes that we now speak about.

“Mar Uachtaran na hÉireann, as President of Ireland, I would like to acknowledge the enormous contribution you have made in your careers. You have been wonderful ambassadors for Ireland and for your faith. By your actions you have humbled us. And by your words you now draw the attention of our country to climate justice.”

Others in attendance included ambassadors from many African countries as well as representatives from environmental and development NGOs as well as from voluntary and State organisations .

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times