- A guiding principle for Trócaire is that its duty toward people in need is no longer a matter of charity but of simple justice
The next Lenten Trócaire Appeal will be its 51st since it was established in 1973 by the Irish Bishops. Last Thursday, 2 February, marked 50 years since its foundation. At that stage Ireland had just joined what was then the Common Market of Europe now the EU – European Union. It looked forward to the great economic progress it promised to deliver … and deliver it did.
But even in 1973 we in Ireland counted ourselves among the wealthy nations as compared to the many so-called developing countries that we referred to as ‘the 3rd World’, that now is termed the global South. At that point in our history, we already had a long history of awareness of the poverty of so many nations through our missionaries.
The establishment of Trócaire came out of a new consciousness of the division across the world between rich and poor, between nations and within nations. That division was destined to grow wider unless structured efforts were put in place to enable nations to develop and prosper. Trócaire in its foundation document puts words on this vision: “The earth and its good things belongs to all the people of the earth and no nation has the right to build its own prosperity upon the misery of others. It is our Christian duty to share our wealth and to help our needy brothers and sister” (ref: the Bishops of Ireland on Development, 2 February 1973).
That foundation of Trócaire fifity years ago confirms the Irish Church’s response to the call of Isaiah in our 1st Reading to-day.
“If you do away with the yoke,
the clenched fist, the wicked word,
If you give your bread to the hungry,
and relief to the oppressed,
your light will shine in the darkness,
and your shadows become like noon”.
Its establishment was visionary in its aspiration to be the salt of the earth and light to the world. (Mt. 5:13-16). Over these past fifty years countless numbers of people have been precisely that salt and light in the lives of the poor and oppressed of over 26 countries in which Trócaire has laboured. Its mission was and is twofold, firstly to respond to the immediate humanitarian need “when I was hungry you gave me to eat…” Mt. 25; and secondly, to tackle with the people the cause of their hunger and poverty and together enable and empower them to develop livelihoods that were sustainable.
An additional task Trócaire took on from the beginning was to keep the needs and plight of poor before our consciousness in Ireland through Development Education in schools and parish. While we mark fifty years of accomplishment and do so with gratitude and pride, the work goes on.
What has been accomplished over the decades was made possible by your sustained generosity across the decades. The people in the pew heard the cry of the poor, through the appeal of Trócaire not just in the Lenten Appeal but on several occasions across the years in response to particular tragedies and disasters e.g. the recent Appeal for those affected by Climate Change in East Africa and the recent Appeal for the victims of war in the Ukraine.
Across the years Trócaire has worked with partners both in funding and on the ground. It has enabled your generosity gain added value and impact for the recipients. The Irish and British Governments, it should be acknowledged, have been a wonderful support to the work of Trócaire. It is truly a testament to the co-operative work of Church and State while respecting our respective spheres and competencies. There are many other partnerships that work equally well to deliver aid and support to the communities on the ground.
There is a memorable line in the Bishops letter of 2 February 1973 which has served as a guiding principle for Trócaire ever since “These duties (toward peoples in need) are no longer a matter of charity but of simple justice” (No.18).
The Bishops concluding remarks are an aspiration in prayer form
“We pray the all-merciful God to grant
us all a share in his mercy. We pray him
to keep our hearts always open to those
in hunger and in need. We pray above all
that he will never let us grow accustomed
to the injustice and inequality that exist
in this world or grow weary in the work
of setting it right” (ibid No. 20)
“Together for a Just World”
Notes for Editors
- Bishop William Crean is Bishop of Cloyne and Chairman of Trócaire. This homily was delivered during Mass in Saint Colman’s Cathedral, Diocese of Cloyne, on 5 February 2023, as part of the fiftieth anniversary celebrations of the establishment of Trócaire by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.