· I call on our Governments – north and south – to do what they can to agree a coordinated action plan for the refugee crisis at national and EU level
· Parishes communities stand ready to offer welcome, support and friendship to these suffering people when they come into our country
Addressing parishioners this evening in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh at the launch of the Archdiocese of Armagh Diocesan Plan, Share the Joy of the Gospel, Archbishop Eamon Martin said:
“Last Sunday, the day after the Feast of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Pope Francis appealed to parishes and religious communities in Europe to respond practically to the refugee crisis. The Holy Father’s challenge shakes us to the core of our baptismal calling.
“We thank God for the efforts of Trócaire, the Catholic Church’s overseas development agency which, through its partner organisations in Caritas, has been working in Syria and the wider region since 2012 to provide humanitarian assistance to vulnerable families, especially women and children. Last August, when thousands of people were displaced following the fall of Mosul, Trócaire, on our behalf, helped to provide practical assistance by way of blankets, mattresses, clothes and heaters. I know that Trócaire is continuing this outreach even as we speak, and is extremely grateful to the people of Ireland for helping it do so. The Trócaire refugee appeal is still ongoing for those individuals and parishes who wish to contribute.
“I also wish to acknowledge the sterling work done by the Irish Naval Service in the Mediterranean which has saved the lives of thousands of people in recent months. Only the other day the LÉ Niamh naval vessel rescued 329 men, women and children from the seas off Libya. But, sadly, we have come to know that these efforts, on their own, are inadequate. Harrowing pictures, like those last week of the lifeless body of little three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, shockingly bring home to us just how perilous a journey these desperate people are prepared to make in search of a secure future for their families. I therefore join with the calls of so many others on this island in urging our Governments – north and south – to do what they can to agree a coordinated action plan for the refugee crisis at national and EU level. The absence of such a plan will only cause greater suffering, confusion and distress.
“All of us can play our part in making such a plan work on the ground here in Ireland. I know that various Irish bishops have already been addressing this issue in their dioceses and parishes. In a few weeks the bishops will meet to bring together our efforts and ideas and help to streamline the Church’s responses across the country. Meanwhile parish communities stand ready to offer welcome, support and friendship to these suffering people when they come into our country and to provide food, clothing and other supports. Some of our parishes have already been able to identify what might be appropriate spaces to support the efforts of our Governments in accommodating people. Our sports clubs, parish groups, teachers, counsellors and many others have also so much to give to help any new arrivals settle and overcome the terrible trauma they have been through.
“As our Diocesan Pastoral Plan, Share the Joy of the Gospel, is launched this evening, it is vital that our pastoral commitment finds practical expression in the face of such an enormous flood of human suffering that we have seen in recent weeks. To that end I ask all the Parish Pastoral Councils of the Archdiocese of Armagh to make contact with their local councillors and with local charities like the Saint Vincent de Paul Society to examine what can be done immediately to respond to Pope Francis’ appeal and to the Gospel imperative “in so far as you did it to the least of these you did it to me.”
· Archbishop Eamon Martin is Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland
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