4 FEBRUARY 2005
HOMILY BY ARCHBISHOP OF ARMAGH, DR SEÁN BRADY
“The Good Friday Agreement was a vote for peace … That should
not be forgotten” – Archbishop Seán Brady, Primate of All Ireland
Homily by Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Sean Brady on the occasion of
The Rite of Religious Profession of Five Sisters of the Order
of St. Clare, Waverley, Australia, at the Poor Clare Monastery
of the Light of Christ, Faughart, Co. Louth.
In the light of recent events and statements which have created anxiety about
the search for peace in our own land, a convent dedicated to the tradition of
peace and selfless service associated with Clare and Francis has a particular
significance. Located as it is in the ‘gap of the North’, the meeting place
between North and South, the symbolic frontier of the conflict which has
claimed so many lives and damaged so many others in this land, the witness
of a community of people who ‘hold all things in common’, who daily put aside
their own legitimate desires for the sake of the good of the whole community,
is a powerful reminder of what makes for a real and lasting peace.
Peace, without a commitment to the common good, to the good of the whole of
society in all its complexity of allegiances, identities and aspirations, is
a peace that cannot be sustained. Only a commitment to the common good, to
the legitimate structures of social life such as representative and democratic
government, just laws and policing, fair taxation, essential economic structures
which support community development such as business, banking and other forms
of wealth generation, only a clear commitment to these legitimate and necessary
instruments of a free society can provide the social basis for justice and peace.
Some seven years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, some ten years
after the first ceasefire, now is the time to acknowledge the progress that has
been achieved to honestly admit that things are better then they were. Now is
also the time to realistically see the difficulties that here and now exist and
which need to be sorted out and to look forward, in hope, to a future when some
of those difficulties at least will have been overcome and eliminated.
It is becoming clearer that there cannot be a peace process without a
corresponding justice process, without discussion and agreement about the
moral, legal and civic values which should underpin the society we are seeking
to create. Perhaps we have all have been too tolerant at times of activity,
not confined to any one part of the community, which is inconsistent with the
vision of a shared, just and democratic society. One consequence of recent
events is that such activity is now more clearly seen for what it is, a threat
to the shared and democratic future for which the overwhelming majority of
people voted in the Good Friday Agreement. The Good Friday Agreement was a
vote for peace, a peace based of the values of justice truth and freedom.
That should not be forgotten.
No cause, no sense of alienation from the State, no warped moral logic can ever
regard activities such as armed robbery, racketeering and maiming as anything
other than gravely contrary to the common good and therefore criminal, sinful
and a constant threat to justice and peace.
Where they become part of a general culture of criminality and violence,
supported by threats and intimidation, they become forms of debilitating
oppression to whole communities.
A crime is a crime precisely because it injures the good of other people,
because it damages the public good. No one should be in any doubt that the
deliberate and intentional killing of the innocent is a crime by any human
standard and a grave evil in the sight of God.
Some people have responded to recent events with understandable anger and
disappointment. Yet it may be that the challenge is to see the current difficulties,
real and significant as they are, as an opportunity rather than an obstacle.
The fact remains that the best way of moving our society forward, the best way
of transforming any latent attitudes of tolerance for violent and illegal activity,
is to construct a better society, the kind of society we came close to achieving
in the run up to Christmas. Admittedly the task will now be more difficult. The
damage to trust is such that clearer and more reliable commitments will be
required about the presence and activity of paramilitary organisations. However,
if dealt with patiently and constructively, as with previous difficulties, it
is just possible that we could arrive at a better position than we have ever
been in before. The language of anger, or of subtle threat, humiliation or
intimidation, merely compounds the sense of disillusionment in the general
public about politics and politicians. But now is the time to recommit ourselves
to the noble task of peace building and with enthusiasm, despite the weariness
which the setbacks and slow pace of progress naturally instil.
I appeal to all who genuinely desire peace to continue to work together to
restore confidence and trust, to appreciate the difficulties which some may
be encountering. I appeal to all of those with influence in the current situation
to return to the methodology and language of patient and constructive dialogue
and negotiation. We have come too far, learnt too much and raised our sights
too high to return to the futility of threat, violence and blame. It is better
to overcome evil with good, even if this approach is slower and less self-
satisfying than anger and violence. It is better to bring hope, rather than
despair. We need to look deep into our hearts and see what we really desire
for ourselves and for those who will come after us. What kind of society do
we wish to pass on to them? If we are able to draw closer to our neighbours
and open our minds and hearts and imagine what kind of future they dream of
for their children, perhaps we would be pleasantly surprised at how much
their dreams resemble ours. Then we could all work together to make that
dream come true. After all, as Francis reminds us, it is giving that we receive,
in being instrument of peace that we continue to protect the joy and dreams
of the children of our land.
For further information please contact:
Martin Long Director, Catholic Communications Office, 086 17 27 678