Cardinal Daly addresses Inter-Church Carol Service in Cushendall, Co Antrim

29 Dec 2002

Address by Cardinal Cahal B.Daly at Inter-Church Carol Service in Layde Church of Ireland Parish Church, Cushendall, Co Antrim

The following is the text of the address given by Cardinal Cahal B. Daly, Archbishop Emeritus of Armagh at an Inter-Church Carol Service in Layde Church of Ireland Parish Church, Cushendall, Co Antrim, today Sunday 29th December 2002.

The Carol Service was part of a fundraising drive by the parishioners of Layde Parish Church to raise funds for the renovation of the Church. The Right Reverend Alan Harper, Bishop of Connor, presided over the service

29 December 2002

Further information:
Ms Brenda Drumm: 087 233 7797

Inter-Church Carol Service “Down The Glens” With The Glens Of Antrim Choir Layde Church Of Ireland Parish Church, Cushendall Address By Cardinal Cahal B. Daly

I am very pleased to be here in Layde Parish Church for this Inter-Church Carol Service, led by the Glens of Antrim Choir; and I am grateful to have been invited by the DiocesanCurate, Canon Kenneth Ruddock. We are honoured that the Bishop of Connor, Right Reverend Alan Harper, has come to preside over this Service. I am very happy also to share the occasion with my nephew, Father Brian Daly, Parish Priest of Cushendall.

This Service is part of a fundraising drive by the parishioners of Layde Parish Church to raise funds for the renovation of this Church. I understand that this service is to be followed at a future date by the presentation to this Parish Church of a sum collected by the Catholic Parishioners of Cushendall, Cushendun and Glenarriffe, to help in the renovation. This is a extremely impressive sign of the warm brotherhood and sisterhood in Christ which exists between the members of the Christian Churches in this area. It surely sends out an inspiring message to the wider community in Northern Ireland at this time, and is an encouragement to others to work harder to establish similar relationships between Christian communities across the land. Pope John Paul has spoken often of the “exchange of gifts” between churches as an important element in the quest for growing unity between Christians. He was not, of course, speaking only or primarily of financial gifts, but rather of exchanging Christian gifts of fellowship, love, forgiveness and prayer. All of these spiritual gifts are united with the financial gift to be presented to this Church on behalf of the Catholic community at a date to be arranged.

It is very embarrassing for us Northerners when we travel abroad to find that almost universally people perceive that we have been for 30 years waging a religious war against one another, and that we are still driven by inter-religious hatred and strife. People outside of this land cannot understand how, in the twenty-first century, we can still be caught up in the religious war syndrome which most European and Americans thought had been left behind in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. I have always found it very difficult to convince people overseas to the contrary.

Are we, then, still suffering from the wars-of-religion mentality? Is our conflict really religious and sectarian? We would like to think and to argue that this is not the case. We, or at least most of us, are not, as people were in the sixteenth century, fighting each other about questions of faith or about theology. We often try to refute the charge of religious war by arguing that our differences are political, not religious in nature. There is truth in this; and yet difficult and painful questions remain. People ask about Christians being harassed on their way to Mass, or about children needing police protection on their way to a school of one denomination; or about people being refused what they see as their right to walk along certain streets on what they see as a religious parade characteristic of a different denomination. Furthermore, we have a major problem of territoriality, with people of one religious persuasion trying, sometimes by violent means, to ensure that certain estates or certain streets are reserved exclusively for members of one religious persuasion, while others are forced to move elsewhere. This is surely equivalent to claiming that territory is to be defined by religion and religion by territory. Does not this show a mentality very similar to that of the religious wars of the reformation period, when a common slogan was: Cuius regio, eius religio, which means something like, “the controller of a territory determines the religion of its citizens”. Sadly, in practice, the ‘controller’ in question is often a paramilitary group or a political party, using religion as a tool in their political or paramilitary strategy. Yet, isn’t that exactly what the kings and princes and dukes of 16th century Europe did in the real wars of religion in Europe.

I still believe that our conflict is not primarily religious, but political, cultural, economic; it is to do with questions of national identity; it is about questions of political control and political power. Nevertheless, the interlinking of these factors with questions of religious denomination is so close as to raise very grave problems for the Christian Churches, and to pose very serious problems for all of us for whom our Christian faith is of central importance. We need to realise, and never to forget, that bigotry and sectarianism are a serious threat to the Christian faith for all of us.

Campaigns to combat sectarianism have been called for by many churchmen from nearly all churches, over the past thirty years. These have certainly produced good results, and in many quarters relations between Churches have improved out of all recognition. We thank God for that. Nevertheless, we must admit that there has been an element of rhetoric about some of these calls and too little real change. The sectarianism which we most vigorously challenge is the sectarianism which we attribute to the “other” community, while closing our eyes to sectarian elements that may be found in “our own” community. Despite the Lord’swarning, we see the mote in the brothers’ eye, not the ‘bloat’ in our own. As a journalist wrote recently, we must be prepared to challenge our own as much as the other side.


Robbie Burns, in words which we Glens of Antrim people understand better than most wrote:

“O would some god the giftie gie us
To see ourselves as ithers see us”.

We should each of us deliberately set out to find what it is in “our own” religious or political community which is seen by others as a threat to them or a scandal in their eyes; and then gently try to correct any misunderstanding there might be in the perception, and show how a more informed understanding of our beliefs or our positions could lessen the fears or suspicions of others. We must be prepared to change, as far as possible, what there is in us which might justify the others’ perception. The phrases, ‘mutual understanding’ and ‘parity of esteem’, have become somewhat hackneyed in political parlance, but they represent important aims for all of us to try to achieve. We are so prone to see the worst in others, not the best. We too readily suspect the others of unworthy motives and hostile intentions; whereas what we are in fact often doing is seeing our own faults and our own weaknesses in others and blaming them when we should be accepting the blame ourselves.

A great ecumenical figure – he was in fact one of the Protestant Observers at the Second Vatican Council, Robert McAfee Brown, proposed ‘rules for dialogue’ in inter-Church discussions.These are as follows:

1. “Each partner must believe the other is speaking in good faith.

2. Each partner must have a good understanding of his or her own faith.

3. Each partner must strive for a clear understanding of the faith of the other.

There are two important corollaries to this mutual striving for a clear understanding of the other:

(a) The first of these is a willingness to interpret the faith of the other in its best light, rather than in its worst;

(b) Each partner must maintain a continual willingness to reverse his or her understanding of the faith of the other.

4. Each partner must accept responsibility in humility and penitence for what his or her group has done, and is doing, to foster and to perpetuate division.

5. Each partner must forthrightly face the issues which cause separation, as well as those which create unity.

6. Each partner must realise that all that can be done with the dialogue is to offer it up to God”

These guidelines could scarcely be improved upon. We should all try to take them away from this service, ponder on them, apply them to our own lives, and try to change whatever in our own conduct and language conflicts with these rules for inter-church dialogue.


These guidelines are in fact only applications to our inter-church relationships of the teaching of the One whom we all recognise as our common Lord and Master. He gave to all of us a new commandment, one by which everyone would recognise us as followers of his:

“I give you a new commandment,
love one another;
just as I have loved you, you also must love one another.
By the love you have for one another,
everyone will know you are my disciples” (John 13: 34-5)

Saint Paul explains that all of God’s commandments are fulfilled by love, each commandment is a particular way of expressing love; and where there is not love, the commandments are not being obeyed, however strict the observance of them might seem to be. It would be a salutary, but perhaps painful, exercise for us to apply that supreme Christian rule of love to our language about other Churches and other Christians. It would be salutary to apply it also it our attitudes towards a member of another Church whose goodness and holiness we recognise and even praise, but with the added well-meaning addition: “He would make a good Protestant”, “She would make a great Catholic”. Should we not rather say: “She is a good Christian because she is a great Protestant”; or “He is a great Christian because he is a good Catholic”. In those who differ from us religiously, we should see and admire and praise what is good in Protestantism or in Catholicism, respectively, and thereby try to grow into the best of our own faith by taking inspiration and example from what we find in the Christian faith of others. This is the true “exchange of gifts” of which Pope John Paul speaks.

The Pope speaks also of the Communion of Saints which is formed by all Christians who genuinely try to live fully up to the call of holiness which is given to every Christian; and he goes on to say that lives of holiness lived in any Christian church are the greatest sign of unity between Christians. He says:

“If Christians, despite their divisions, can grow ever more united in common prayer around Christ, they will grow in awareness of how little divides them in comparison to what unites them.” (Ut Unum Sint, 22)

St Paul gives us an interesting comment. He recognises that some proclaim Christ “out of rivalry or competition” or other “jealous or selfish motives”. But, he asks, does it matter (“so long) as Christ is proclaimed”? Like Paul, we should rejoice that Christ is being proclaimed and glorified in all our churches (cfr. Philippians 1: 15-18). St. Paul urges us to think the best of others, rather than suspecting the worst. He gives us this precept: “Always consider the other person to be better than yourself” (Philippians 2: 3).

In his wonderful description of what true Christian love means in the concrete reality of everyday life, St. Paul says:

“Love is always patient and kind, it is never jealous … it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence and is not resentful; it … delights in truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, to endure whatever comes” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7).

Let us apply these words of St. Paul to our own reactions to other communities as well as to other individuals. Let us reflect on how readily we take satisfaction in learning about scandals in another church and rejoice smugly in our own superiority. Let us think of our reaction to statistics of Church attendance; do we react by thinking: “Their numbers of Churchgoers, their numbers of Mass attenders, are falling, so that is good news for us”. Think of the fuss recently made about denominational statistics. Was our reaction: “Their community is growing in numbers and in percentage terms, so we must feel threatened or afraid”. Surely we, on each side of the ‘divide’, should be thinking: “What is there in us which makes them feel threatened or afraid? What can we do, what can we say, how can we change, so as to make them feel less afraid”? Let us firmly grasp this truth: in the society in which we are living now, and, even more so in the society which is already coming into being for the future, the vast majority of those who give up the practice of their religion and cease to go to church in one denomination, will not be going to church in another denomination, but will most likely be turning their back on all religion and perhaps ceasing to believe in God. When the bell tolls in one church and people are not responding to its call, we should feel for them as we would feel for ourselves in like circumstances; and furthermore, the bell will be tolling in our Church too, with similar decline in the response. In the secular society in which we are going to be living as the century progresses, Christian Churches are called, more and more, to seek ways of proclaiming Christ, singly and together, in a world where many feel no need for him, many have forgotten him, and many, alas, even in our own country, have never heard of him – and the loss is to all of us.

Since Christ is our common Lord, the question for us is how can we, in each of our Churches, become more like Christ, so that others will fear us less because they see more of Christ in us. As John the Baptist said, we must allow Christ to grow greater in us, and our unchristianised selves to grow less.

The formation of truly Christian attitudes will have immediate repercussions for our political thinking too. I am thinking of ‘political’ with a ‘small p’ and not of party-politics.Spokesmen for the unionist community seem to agree that suspicion and fear and mistrust are increasing in that community. Political leaders in the nationalist or in republican communities, who take their faith seriously, should be seeking ways whereby they can lessen that suspicion, remove those fears, and create greater trust. They should be trying to reassure that communityby their own words and actions, helping them to believe that their fears are groundless, that their rights are and will remain sacrosanct, that their tradition is and will be fully respected, not merely out of courtesy but as of right and because of its own intrinsic value. Nationalist leaders and republican leaders should believe and should show that the rights of unionists are a matter of concern, not just to unionists, but also to nationalists who genuinely wish to create in partnership and in equality, a truly democratic society, where all, and not simply the majority, can feel that they belong. It is time for nationalists and for republicans to be generous. Sadly, the contrary is sometimes the case. Some speak and act in ways which can only increase fear and suspicion on the other side, and show little urgency in doing what they must know is necessary to give reassurance to the other side.

Politicians on both sides, should, on the contrary, be genuinely trying to understand the historical and political difficulties that face the leaders and members of the other community, and should be genuinely trying to find ways in which, without compromising their own political tradition, they might be able to lessen the difficulties of their political opponents.

Any drift towards extreme views on one side or on the other is a threat to the aims and the needs, the welfare and future of both communities. It is in the interests of both to avoid such a danger. It would be very short-sighted and self-defeating and wrong to resort to hardline slogans in the hope of preventing a lurch towards extremism. In so doing, leaders would only be serving the cause of extremists.


We, in these islands, are often accused of being too much preoccupied with memories of the past. There is truth in the accusation. But memories do have a strong impact on our present behaviours. Our memories are very selective. We remember the hurts that we have endured and forget the hurts we have inflicted. We forget the hurts of others and ignore the part that we have played in causing those hurts. We need to hear the memories of others and share our memories with them. The Christian will seek to know the hurts of others, and sincerely try to recognise and acknowledge our part in inflicting them, or even perpetuating them. That is how healing may come; and, with healing, forgiveness and change and new beginning.

The New Testament word for this is repentance, metanoia. The first words on Christ’s lips at the beginning of his public ministry are: “Repent and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1: 14), “Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand” (Matthew 4: 17). The word used in the Gospels for ‘repent’ is the Greek word metanoeite; this is the verb corresponding to the noun, metanoia. This means ‘change’; it means radical change of one’s way of living, thinking, relating to others; it means change of one’s whole way of life into the pattern of Christ’s own way of life and teaching. Another related word in the Christian vocabulary is the word ‘conversion’. This means turning one’s life right round, turning it in the direction of Christ and his Gospel. It means leaving the ways of sin and hate and all that is evil behind, so as to follow Christ. Christian life is a way of conversion; and the conversion is to be renewed every day as we progressively, laboriously, try to change our ways of thinking and speaking and our relationships with others into Christ’s ways.

Even more than political change, we need spiritual change. Indeed, change which is truly Christian will imply political change and will lead to political change. The great Protestant theologian Karl Barth, once said that every truly Christian sermon must be in some sense political. Obviously, he was not speaking of any specific party-political platform; he was speaking of politics with a “small p” – namely the kind of change of which St. Paul spoke when he summoned his converts at Ephesus to let their minds “be renewed by a spiritual revolution”, so as “to put on the new self that has been created in God’s way, in the goodness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4: 23-4). It is significant that, when he speaks of a “citizenship” worthy of Christ, the word St. Paul uses is politeusthe, which is the root-word from which our word for politics comes. Christianity is sometimes alleged to be the cause of our conflict; the truth is that Christianity alone offers the only solution to our conflict and the only way to live in peace and create a future of hope for our children.

St. Augustine, in one of his lectures on the psalms, wrote:

“(Christians separated from us) will cease to be our brothers and sisters only if they cease to say ‘our Father’”.

He condemns “weakness and animosity” between Christians, which, he says, “is all the more feeble the stronger it thinks itself to be”. He urges us to “pour out our love to God on their behalf”.

Our own St. Columbanus of Bangor re-echoes this appeal when he says, in his letter to the Bishops of Gaul:

“We are all fellow-members of one body, whether Franks or Britons or Irish or whatever we are … Let us all hasten to approach to perfect manhood, to the measure of the age of the fullness of Jesus Christ. In him let us love one another, … encourage one another, pray for one another, so that with him and with one another we may triumph”.

In conclusion, I use again the words of St. Augustine:

“You are going to go away,
each one of you to his or her own home.
To have been together in the same light
has been good.
To have rejoiced together
has been good.
But when we part from one another
let us not part from God”.

“To Him be glory from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus, for ever
and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3: 21)

29 December 2002