- Statement of Archbishop Dermot Farrell on the riots in Dublin city centre
The shocking events on the streets of our city on Thursday afternoon and evening have dismayed us all. We have seen with our own eyes, how violence puts everyone – especially the vulnerable and the innocent – in mortal danger. In places we know first-hand, we have seen its power to draw people in and consume them in a spiral of hatred and wanton destruction.
That such violence – something we associate with other countries and other situations – would happen on our streets can have an effect in our lives. It can quietly, but very markedly, erode the ethos of peace and safety that usually characterises our lives together. As we gather this weekend to celebrate our Eucharist some of us may feel bewildered and anxious. Let us keep our Lord before our eyes. He, who lived in a world marked by violence, and whose very death was the epitome of violence and terror – He is our peace. The Bread of Life is the food of our hope, and the one who guides our feet on the way of peace, justice, and dignity (see Luke 1:79).
As people of hope we are not helpless in the face of what we have witnessed. In solidarity, we pray for the victims of the horrific assault on Parnell Square, for their families, for the school staff, and the children in Scoil Mhuire Primary School. We give thanks for the courage and decisiveness of those who acted so promptly with such selflessness, for the skill of the emergency services and Gardaí, and for all who helped restore order.
As well as people of prayer, we are also people of action. This weekend’s Gospel tells us that our actions – especially with regard to the weak and vulnerable – are a key measure of who we truly are. Let us, therefore, not be passive in the face of what we have witnessed. In the first place, let us refuse to allow ourselves to be cowed or intimidated by those who seek to coerce us. We can challenge the misinformation that seeks to sow doubt, suspicion, resentment, and fear. We can challenge the casual remarks that spread cynicism and prejudice.
Above all, we can reach out in solidarity and friendship to those who have made their homes among us, but who are being targeted with words of hate and gestures that are filled with hostility and derision. Let us not forget the invaluable contribution so many make to our economy and society. Let us not take for granted the vibrant gifts of faith and witness which they bring to our parish communities.
Our Gospel for the Celebration of Christ the King (Matt 25:31–46) tells us that the Lord identifies himself with the stranger. It is the Lord himself we welcome when we welcome the stranger in our midst. This is the Living Christ, our Risen Lord, Emmanuel – as Saint Matthew calls him – God – with us (Matt 1:23). Our most telling rejection of the darkness we have seen on our streets will therefore be the words and gestures of support we offer to those who have been targeted by mobs enflamed in a cynical attempt to sow division and hatred.
This is a moment of truth for our city and for Irish society more broadly. As a community of faith we are called to give clear and consistent witness to what our faith proclaims: that we are all made in the image and likeness of God, that we are all children of the one God, the God who looks for the lost and brings back the stray, who bandages the wounded and strengthens the weak. May we not be found wanting. May Christ and His way take flesh in our lives, in how we live.
• Archbishop Dermot Farrell is Archbishop of Dublin