When I became Bishop last October, I would never have imagined that I would be celebrating my first Holy Week and Easter in an empty cathedral with no one present. None of us back then had even heard of the Coronavirus or Covid-19. None of us could have predicted that come the spring our world would be gripped by the tragedy of a Pandemic and that life as we had known it would have been turned on its head. As the saying goes “we are where we are” and no matter how surreal it is – these days are ours to live through.
Our thoughts and prayers go to all those who have died and their families. We remember those who are sick, those who are in hospital and those in our intensive care units. We pray for our medical staff – our doctors and nurses, hospital chaplains and hospital support staff. We pray for our priests as they continue to find creative ways to minister to those in need. Pray for our political leaders that God may give them wisdom in these days and for our scientists that they will be guided in their search for a remedy. I am conscious of those who are over seventy or vulnerable and who are cocooning – we are with you in your isolation and we are with those who miss you.
As I did my shopping during the week, I was filled with admiration for those who are working so hard to provide our food. To these, I would add our Pharmacies who see to it that we have our medicines, our civil servants, An Garda Síochána, the Defence Forces, all those who are providing essential services and all those church and community groups throughout the Diocese who are reaching out to those in need. I give thanks for our teachers and pray especially for those waiting to sit their Leaving Certificate in these uncertain days. I remember also our young parishioners who have had the celebration of the Sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation postponed. To each and every family in the Diocese and to each and every one – many of you are not only worried about your health and the health of loved ones but also about your jobs and the future – you are in my thoughts and prayers.
This crisis is affecting us all – we are in this together. How we come through it and how we come out of it depends on each of us taking responsibility for strictly adhering to the necessary restrictions in place. This is not an option – it is a grave moral responsibility. By all accounts our actions over the last few weeks have been effective – let us not weaken or wain now but let us fix our minds on the end goal of simply saving as many lives as we can.
As a Christian people, in these Easter days, we celebrate our faith in the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. During Holy Week we walked with him through his passion, his suffering and cruel death on the cross. Then, from the pages of the Gospels, we hear proclaimed: “He is not here! He is risen! He has gone before you to Galilee!” (Mt. 28)
We renew our faith that God, who made the world itself – he who set the sun in the sky and the stars in the heavens, he who fixed the times of the seasons and who, each spring, causes the seed to grow – walks with us in good times and bad times on the journey of life. He can and will transform our human suffering and even bring a new transfigured existence out of human death. I am confident because of that first Holy Week and Easter those many years ago, God will lead a world harrowed by worry, illness and death out of these dark days. He will transform our suffering in ways we could not have thought of or imagined. New growth and resurrection will come.
Let me finish by making my own a thought from the Italian tenor – Andrea Bocelli “I believe in the strength of praying together; I believe in the Christian Easter, a universal symbol of rebirth that everyone – whether they are believers or not – truly needs right now.”
The Risen Christ is our hope and our salvation!
Happy Easter! Keep safe and keep each other safe!
Beannachtaí na Cásca oraibh!
Bishop of Clonfert