Address by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin at Crosscare Conference

28 Feb 2012

Address by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin at Crosscare Conference, All Hallows College, Dublin, ‘Action for Social Justice 2012

“A Uachtarain:

First of all let me say that you are really welcome here today at this Crosscare Conference: Action for Justice.  I know that you will feel at home here among friends who share with you a passion for justice and a passion for the care of the marginalized.

It was said of the British Empire that the sun never set over its rule.  We can truly say the same about Crosscare.  While we sleep in comfort and security, Crosscare is caring right through the dark of night and every night for those who have no home and little security.  Day by day in daylight it provides simple but specifically prepared nutritious food for an increasing number of people who need its services, many of whom now are children.  It advises and provides support for immigrants. It assists those who need a second chance in education.  It supports people affected by alcohol or drug abuse.  It brings human warmth to those who are elderly and alone.  Crosscare does not forget a category of forgotten heroes of our society, those who dedicate their lives as carers and who themselves need for themselves moments of human support.

Crosscare is the social care organization of the Archdiocese of Dublin; it represents part of that special contribution to our society of the voluntary sector, which will be all the more necessary in the years to come.    The voluntary sector is however not there just to step in when the public sector is temporarily unable to provide services.  It represents a fundamental value of active citizenship. For the Christian believer that contribution is marked especially by gratuitousness, reflecting the gratuitous love of God, a God who loves despite our infidelity, a love which asks neither advance payment nor something in return.

Much of our reflection on the Gospel story of the Good Samaritan rightly focuses on that outsider who, unlike officialdom, took time to help a wounded brother.  Too often we overlook the person helped: we are in fact given no details about his identity, because any such detail is irrelevant. The only detail required is that he is a man, another human person who needs our help.

Crosscare represents what is best in the voluntary sector but Crosscare is nonetheless scrupulously professional in its ethos, in its standards and what is achieves.  From my first days as Archbishop I gave Crosscare the mandate: “The poor deserve the best”.  I gave the mandate and Crosscare has not let me down but has taken me by surprise by the true professionalism of its response.

Look at the photos of the Crosscare centres and they have nothing to do with the classic image of services for the poor, which had more to do with the image of the poor house than with one where each individual man, woman or child is welcomed just for who they are as people.

Conor Hickey, to whom we are immensely grateful, said to me shortly after he joined Crosscare that we have to redefine the term homeless.  “If someone has for years not adapted to a conventional home”, he said, “then we have to recognise that their home may well be with us, but then the home we provide them has to be one in which we ourselves could live”.   The quality of what society offers its homeless, reflects the idea society has of the dignity of each human person.

What do we actually mean by homelessness?  I find it interesting to look at the biblical understanding of home. The biblical concept of the home is at the same time strikingly simple and strikingly profound.  The idea of home in the biblical tradition is not just a building with walls but a place with a hearth – a place of human warmth and intimacy; a place with lineage – a connection with dear ones and with the future;  a place where one is able to pass on examples of wisdom.

These simple terms put into focus what happens when someone looses their home:  they lack not just a roof to protect them from the elements.  The alienation which the person experiences when they remain homeless is about the about a lack of human warmth, a lack of lineage or the connection with dear ones and the future, an inability to transmit the wisdom which is present in each man women, an assault on one’s dignity and self esteem.

A Uachtarain:  Crosscare represents not just a series of services to our Irish society, but a vision of what Irish society can and must become though the contribution of its citizens and the special contribution of those citizens who draw their inspiration from love of God revealed in Jesus Christ, but who willingly walk with and alongside men and own of other visions.


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