Courage an essential characteristic for politicians – Bishop Brendan Leahy’s ‘World Day of Peace’ message

02 Jan 2019

Tuesday 1 January 2019:  Politicians need the support of the wider public as it is a career that can involve a form of martyrdom and sacrifice, Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy said today in his New Year’s ‘World Day of Peace’ homily.

Addressing the congregation at the Immaculate Conception Church in Newcastle West today, Bishop Leahy said, however, that the effects of wrong politics can be devastating.

Picking up on Pope Francis’ message – ‘good politics at the service of peace’ – for today’s World Day of Peace, Bishop Leahy acknowledged that politics is not an easy vocation but said that courage is an essential characteristic.

“There’s always the temptation to be driven by self-preservation – the need to ‘get the vote’.  To stay in with the party leadership. That can lead to compromising principles, taking choices that are fundamentally wrong for those who voted for them in the first instance. 

“Yes, we must live in the real world but we must also be able to rest easy with our conscience.  Have I done the right thing or just the popular thing?  Courage is one of the essential characteristics of a great politician and all great politicians are known for their courage.”

He continued: “Politics can involve a form of martyrdom. It is a daily dying to self. Politicians can come under great pressure. They need our support. With a sense of realism, Pope Francis acknowledged this a few years ago. He commented how politicians don’t always get it right but he encouraged them not be discouraged, but always keep going.

“He recognised how it’s not easy for politicians not to get their hands or heart a little dirty, but he advised them: ‘Ask the Lord to help you not to sin, but if you get your hands dirty, ask for forgiveness and keep going, don’t get discouraged’.”

The negative side of politics can be devastating, he said, citing homelessness as one of a number of examples of the fall-out. 

“When politics goes wrong there are devastating effects. It is shocking to think that one out of every six children in our world is affected by the violence of war or its effects. We know too that in Northern Ireland one in four of the population are in some way affected by the impact of the troubles there.

“We all know that bad politics can lead to many ills such as lack of welcome for migrants, racism, lack of concern for the natural environment, and also homelessness,” he said.

He added: “On this World Day of Peace, let’s pray for politicians. Let’s renew our high vision of their calling. And let’s commit ourselves to doing our part. We can’t just work for change in society from the balcony, as Pope Francis put it once. We all have to do our part in politics, by being actively engaged. And let’s encourage a dialogue among generations, young and old, in politics.”