10 May 2008
Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza’s homily at the liturgical reception in his honour at St Mary’s Pro Cathedral
My dear brothers in the Episcopate, my dear brothers and sisters,
On the 11th of April last, before leaving Rome for Ireland, I had the joy and privilege of being received in audience by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. He asked me to convey to each and every one of you his paternal greeting and Apostolic Blessing, and to assure you of his prayerful support and encouragement as you seek to remain ever faithful to your Catholic faith and persevere in the generous love of Christ and his Church.
Spiritually, the Holy Father is very close to you. He is close to the Church in Ireland and to Irish society, which has, above all in recent times, been deeply pained by the injury inflicted on innocent people and their families by churchmen whose conduct has been in stark contrast to their priestly calling and religious obligations. As Pope Benedict XVI said to the Irish Bishops on the occasion of their Ad Limina visit to him in 2006:
In your continuing efforts to deal effectively with this problem, it is important to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes. In this way the Church in Ireland will grow stronger and be ever more capable of giving witness to the redemptive power of the Cross of Christ. I pray that by the grace of the Holy Spirit, this time of purification will enable all God’s people in Ireland to ‘maintain and perfect in their lives that holiness which they have received from God’ (28 Oct 2006).
The Holy Father holds this country in high esteem and very close to his heart. It is a country whose history has been marked by over sixteen centuries of Catholic faith and tradition that have forged the spirit of the Irish people and shaped their cultural, moral and religious identity. For that very reason, he invites you to look to the future with confidence and, as John Paul II expressed it in his Apostolic Letter Novo Millenio ineunte (6 January 2001), to start out from Christ again, fixing your gaze on his face, which bears the mark of suffering yet also of glory.
Allow me to say how particularly honoured I feel to have been appointed the Holy Father’s Representative in Ireland. I am well aware, indeed, of the great responsibility that goes with this office and would therefore ask for the on-going support of your prayers, so that I may be able to carry out faithfully the mission entrusted to me, in a spirit of humble service to the Church and this country.
2. – The Church invites us to celebrate today the Solemnity of Pentecost. In the Liturgy we are urged to ask the Lord to bestow the gift of the Holy Spirit on the Church and on each one of us, its members. We do so with this invocation on our lips: “Send forth your Spirit, o Lord, and renew the face of the earth” (Resp. Ps.). Pentecost, indeed, evokes the wonderful outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Virgin Mary and the Apostles, gathered in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. The Acts of the Apostles tell us how, fifty days after Easter, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the community of Jesus’ disciples in the form of an impetuous wind and fire – symbols of the presence of God in the midst of his people (cfr. Act. 2:1-11). That day, there were “devout men living in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven” (Act. 2:5), and “each one heard these men speaking in his own native language” (Act. 2:6). It is the characteristic gift of the Holy Spirit. The Gospel adds that Jesus gave his Apostles a parting command that they go forth and proclaim the Gospel message to the ends of the earth, and he gave them the power to pardon sins (cfr. Jn. 20:19-23). Renewed and transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles began to bear witness to the Lord who had died for us and risen to life again.
Yes, Pentecost marks the birth of the new people of God and of a boundless Church, made up of men and women of every nation, race and culture. St. Paul underlines well this aspect of the catholicity or universality of the Church in the Second Reading of the Mass when he says: “In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink” (1 Cor. 12:13).
3. – On this day of Pentecost, then, it seems particularly fitting to pay homage to the Catholic Church in Ireland which has – in the course of its history and in the spiritual footsteps of its great missionary ‘Father in the Faith’ and in nationhood, St. Patrick – taken the message of Pentecost to heart and zealously spread the Good News of salvation at home and abroad. The Church in Ireland, which counts among its sons and daughters an abundant blossoming of saints – some of whom have paid the ultimate price for their fidelity to Christ – has been, and still is, a missionary Church. In recalling the generous contribution made by so many Irish missionaries, men and women, I am also mindful of the more recent work of young volunteers, members of government and non-government agencies, and members of the Armed Forces on peace-keeping missions abroad, who have dedicated their lives, and continue to do so, to the service of those in need in remote regions of the world, working above all in the areas of healthcare, education, social development, conflict-resolution, and the defence of the dignity of the human person.
Ireland today, by the grace of God and the determined efforts of its people, is a country that enjoys political and social stability, a country that has achieved extraordinary economic growth and managed to bring peace to every corner of the island. It has also opened its arms very generously to people who have come to it from the four corners of the earth in search of a new life. Undoubtedly, there will be new challenges in the future, yet I am convinced that the Irish people will find a way, as they have in the past, to face them with serenity and a great sense of responsibility, their hearts set on the common good.
In this “New Ireland”, the Catholic Church, too, is called to face new challenges. Not least among them are the growing influence of secularism in society, the dramatic drop in vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and the deep crisis that has tarnished what is called to be a spotless image. It needs to start afresh from Christ, says the Holy Father. In Christ and with Christ, it will find the strength and courage to wash its garments “in the blood of the Lamb” (cfr. Apoc. 7:14) and dedicate itself to the painstaking process of spiritual renewal that will allow it to continue playing its role as a “moral conscience” in society, just as in the past, thus helping to build up a society in this country that is worthy in every way of the human person.
Within this process of inner renewal, a praiseworthy initiative has been launched by the Bishops’ Conference: a “Year of Prayer for Vocations” that asks the Lord to continue sending his Church good shepherds and saintly religious men and women. Among the other initiatives for spiritual renewal there is also a promising “Missionary Year” that is being conducted in the Archdiocese of Dublin with the aim of bringing Christ and his message to every home.
More than ever today, society looks to the Church, hoping to find in it a sure guide in its quest for the truth and for the ultimate meaning to life. If the Church is to speak credibly and meaningfully to the people of our time, it must be transparent and convincing in its witness to the Gospel truth.
My dear brothers and sisters, on the Solemnity of Pentecost, let us ask the Lord to enlighten and fortify his Church with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, so that it may be an effective sign and instrument of his grace today among the men and women of this country and beyond. Amen.
Martin Long, Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm, Communications Officer (087 233 7797)