“Irish people are directly or indirectly encountering the victims of trafficking. Victims have been found in different sectors of society. We need to stay alert to this reality and work in our local communities to eradicate it.” – Archbishop O’Reilly
Over these past weeks I have become very much aware of the wonderful people who have been involved in the preparation for this ceremony of installation. As we prepared for today’s event the Book of the ceremony was presented in various drafts but one feature struck me very forcefully and it concerns some of the words of welcome extended to me at the door of the Cathedral. I would like to read again the words of Father Christy:
“We welcome you and pray that God will grant you grace to proclaim His Word and to serve His Church in love, humility and truth.” I was further urged by Archbishop Clifford at the moment of Installation “to preach the Word of God …”
I take this commission today as a priority for the years of my ministry in the archdiocese, and invite you my friends and the people of Cashel & Emly to set out on a journey to become more familiar with the Word of God and its life-giving power. I have been invited to proclaim the Word and this has been for me the thought that is foremost in my mind as I prepared to take up the appointment that I have been entrusted with by Pope Francis. The reading from the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians: “I do not boast of preaching the gospel, since it is a duty laid on me” (9:16) is uppermost in my mind today.
8 February 2015 – The First International Day of prayer and awareness against human trafficking and the Feast of Saint Josephine Bakhita
Today is the Feast of Saint Josephine Bakhita. Whilst it is a name that may not be familiar with all of you, for those here present from Africa it will be a name that they are familiar with. Saint Josephine was born in Sudan in 1869 and kidnapped for slavery before she was nine years old. Such was her trauma that she forgot her birth name and it was lost, to be replaced by Bakhita, meaning “Fortunate”. This was the name that her kidnappers gave her. Sold in the markets like a commodity and passed from owner to owner, she would eventually find herself in the household of the Italian consul, who brought her to Italy. There she came under the care of the Canossian Sisters and began a new life as a Christian, and later, as a nun.
In today’s liturgy of the Word, the first reading (Job 7: 1-4, 6-7) focuses on the theme of suffering: Job’s life has become a misery, everything has gone against him, he is, he says: “Like the slave sighing for the shade …” The life of those caught in that world is a misery and often full of sadness. Today, we recall the vast numbers of innocent people – especially children – trapped in the global trade of human trafficking.
Saint Paul, in the second reading (1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23), chose the slave as the representation of the weakest member of society. Historically slaves were treated as the lowest and least respected of all. However the reality of slavery in our time is a frightening reality. More people are enslaved through trafficking today than during 400 years of transatlantic slave trading. An estimated 21 million people are enslaved through global trafficking, and this results in 700,00 people trafficked across international borders each year. These are shocking figures and they relate to today – 2015. Human trafficking is a direct violation of the right to freedom, dignity and equal rights enshrined in Article One of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Remembering the tragedy that is human trafficking does not just relate to what is happening in distant countries far away; it also concerns us, and our own country here. We have a responsibility to effectively challenge and tackle trafficking which exists here in Europe. Wealthy countries are a source of demand for human trafficking. You may ask: “what can we do about it?” The first step is to open our eyes to the reality that trafficking may be happening around us in our local communities. Irish people are directly or indirectly encountering the victims of trafficking. Victims have been found in different sectors of society. Very often those trapped in this world are bound by what Pope Francis calls “invisible chains.” We need to stay alert to this reality and work in our local communities to eradicate it.
Writing about human trafficking in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis states that all those guilty of “comfortable and silent complicity” in relation to this crime have “blood on their hands” (211).
The Gospel passage in today’s Liturgy of the Word is taken from the Gospel of Saint Mark and recounts Jesus, during His earthly life. We are at an exciting and energetic moment in the ministry of Jesus. He has caused a great stir through His preaching and ministry in the towns around Lake Galilee. The presence that Mark wrote about is what we would describe today as “creating a buzz”. The bustle of the Gospel must be lived in each generation of faith and searched and discerned by all the community of faith. The Gospel is an open invitation to gather in the Lord’s presence and to live the presence of the Kingdom of God.
My journey as bishop in the Archdiocese of Cashel & Emly begins today. I ask you for your prayerful support to help me to fulfil the tasks which Pope Francis sets out for a diocesan bishop in The Joy of the Gospel. I read them to you as they are the blueprint for my ministry as your bishop. Pope Francis asks that:
“Each local Church make its missionary impulse ever more focused, generous and fruitful. I encourage each particular Church to undertake a resolute process of discernment, purification and reform. The bishop must always foster … missionary communion in his diocesan Church, following the ideal of the first Christian communities, in which the believers were of one heart and one soul (cf. Acts 4:32). To do so, he will sometimes go before his people, pointing the way and keeping their hope vibrant. At other times, he will simply be in their midst with his unassuming and merciful presence. At yet other times, he will have to walk after them, helping those who lag behind and – above all – allowing the flock to strike out on new paths. In his mission of fostering a dynamic, open and missionary communion, he will have to encourage and develop the means of participation…..with the missionary aspiration of reaching everyone as the objective (#30-31 The Joy of the Gospel).”
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678