24th November 2007
Address to the media in the Irish College, Rome, by Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh
on the occasion of his creation as a Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI
“Priests and religious have a unique and irreplaceable role in our society” – Cardinal Brady
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today has been a very joyful day – a day of many graces and much happiness. I am very honoured and humbled that Pope Benedict XVI has created me a Cardinal. I hope that people in Ireland will see in it an expression of our Holy Father’s particular regard and affection for them and for the Church in Ireland.
On this special occasion, I am delighted to be joined in Rome, a city I love so much, by so many of my family and friends, and by brother Cardinals, Bishops and Priests from Ireland.
I am also grateful for all the prayers and good wishes which have accompanied me through these last few days. These good wishes literally come from thousands of people who are glad for the Church and for Ireland itself, at this joyful event. I wish to acknowledge in particular those many expressions of support and encouragement I have received from members of other Christian Churches and other faiths in Ireland, including some from individuals who also are members of the Loyal Orders. Their sentiments have been a real encouragement to me. They are one of the many reasons why I have great hope for our future. It is a hope rooted in mutual respect and dignity. All of this leads me to believe that we are indeed in a new place – in a new era – an era of great promise right now.
I am also very grateful to the President, Mary McAleese, Secretary of State, Shaun Woodward, Minister Dermot Ahern, Minister Paul Goggins and all the other representatives of Government, North and South, who have joined us for this occasion. I am particularly pleased that we are able to have present also members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, including Deputy First Minister, Mr Martin McGuinness and SDLP Spokesperson for Education, Mr. Tommy Gallagher MLA. That we have representation from an Executive and Assembly which is successfully operating in Northern Ireland gives me great hope for the future. I take this opportunity to ask people to pray that the peace process in Northern Ireland will continue to be a source of pride and joy and inspiration to peace makers across the world.
A great number of priests have come to Rome this weekend from Armagh, Kilmore, elsewhere in Ireland, the USA, Britain and many other parts. This includes many of my 1964 classmates from Maynooth and Rome. I would like to take the opportunity today to pay tribute to them and to the priests and religious of Ireland, including those who work abroad on the missions. I would like to think that today is also about them and for them.
These have been difficult, at times traumatic, years for the Church in Ireland. Yet in the midst of these challenges, the overwhelming majority of priests and religious have continued to serve their people, in humble patience, with quiet devotion and outstanding generosity.
That is why I believe that today is, in some sense, about them. It is about the quiet acts of kindness, the supportive, prayerful presence in times of tragedy and disaster, the efforts to build community, and to bring dignity, comfort and hope to those in need.
These have been the hallmark of generations of Irish priests and religious at home and across the world. It is a legacy of which, I believe, Ireland can be proud. Their generosity and commitment are recognised and celebrated in many parts of the world.
Being created a Cardinal is about strengthening the bonds of affection and unity between the See of Peter and the Church in Ireland. I have therefore no hesitation in saying to the lay faithful of Ireland today: take heart! Today is recognition of your goodness and of your fidelity. Today the Successor of Peter has not so much honoured me as honoured the people of Ireland for their dedication to faith, family and fair play.
The years ahead will bring a new emphasis on the role of the lay faithful. This is to be welcomed. It is also appropriate and necessary. Respect for our neighbour, defence of the inherent dignity of the human person, generosity in service of others, concern for those most in need, especially in the developing world, turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, these are the things which have made Ireland the great, generous and peace making country that it is. These are the things that will keep Ireland great. These are things which also flow from faith. My prayer is that these will continue to be the outstanding characteristics of the Irish. That will only happen if the foundation of faith remains intact.
Two weeks ago Father Peter McVerry addressed the priests of Armagh diocese. He told us that the passion of God is compassion, especially for the poor and the vulnerable of our world. My hope is that through God’s grace, Ireland will continue to be known as a country which values and defends the irreplaceable gift of faith, a faith which is compassionate and has at its heart a concern for the vulnerable and the poor.
I pray for a deep renewal of that faith. I pray that many Irish people will rediscover the joy which has brought such fulfilment to my own life, the joy of following Jesus Christ.
Becoming a Cardinal is not just an honour, it is also a responsibility. It implies a willingness to help the Pope to carry out the tasks entrusted to him of feeding the flock, strengthening them in their faith, leading back the stray and guiding them safely into the banquet of Eternal Life. Pope Benedict himself has described it as the work of rescuing people from the many forms of alienation that are in our world today. I believe that the Holy Father wants us all to help him to proclaim the Good News that God is love.
I ask your prayers that I may be given the wisdom and courage to carry out that task and, as I do, I make my own the Prayer of St. Patrick:
But what can I say or what can I promise to my Lord,
as I can do nothing that He has not given me?
May He search my heart and my deepest feelings….
May God never permit it to happen to me
that I should lose His people which He purchased in the utmost
parts of the world.
I pray to God to give me perseverance
and to deign that I be a faithful witness to Him
to the end of my life for my God.
(From The Confession of St. Patrick)
Finally, I want to express my appreciation of your presence here today. I realise it is not so easy to cover a long event like this, not least, when it is scheduled to be out of doors. But I want to thank you for the coverage you have already provided and will continue to provide over the next few days. I know it will mean a lot to people in Ireland who have an interest in the events of today and those of the next few days.
I hope you will forgive me if I pay particular tribute to RTÉ. It is very generous of them to broadcast live both the Consistory this morning and the Mass of the Rings tomorrow. I would ask Joe Little to convey my sincere appreciation to those responsible for this decision in RTÉ and also for the decision to broadcast the homecoming Mass in Armagh next Thursday live on radio.
Thank you. I hope you will enjoy the rest of our time together.
Notes for Editors
On his creation as a cardinal, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, assigned to Cardinal Brady the titular Church of St Cyricus and Julitta, who were martyrs. The story is that Julitta, a widow of Iconium, took her three year old son, Cyricus, to Tarsus, the native city of St Paul, to escape persecution. Here, however, she was recognised and accused, suffered with her child a series of tortures, which, however, rebounded in some way against the persecutors whom Cyricus attacked. Eventually, Julitta and her son were executed and their relics were saved by other Christians. Cyricus was supposed to have come from Antioch, a child martyr of immense popularity.
The connection with France was strong, partly because of some relics brought back from Antioch. Charlemagne, in a dream was saved from death by wild boar on a hunt, by the appearance of a child who promised to save him from death if he would give him clothes to cover him. The Bishop of Nevers interpreted this to mean that he wanted the Emperor to repair the roof of the Cathedral, dedicated to San Cyr. Hence Cyricus is represented in icon as the child riding on a wild boar. He was the patron saint of children and his feast day is 16 June.
Cardinal Brady is particularly pleased that the Church is at the heart of classical Rome – within sight of the Forum and the Arch of Titus and the Mamertine Prison – reminding him of more carefree days and times as a teacher of Latin and Roman Art and architecture. The most gratifying feature of this Church is that it contains the tombs of students of the Irish College – possibly contemporaries of Cardinal Brady’s grand-uncle, Fr Bernard Brady, former parish priest of Belturbet.
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Kathy Tynan Communications Officer (086 817 5674)