COI Gazette – 13th March 2015

Archbishops promote blood and organ donation at high-profile Armagh and Dublin launches

Archbishop Richard Clarke and Archbishop Eamon Martin display a ‘Gift of Life’ donor card at the Dublin launch of FAB in St Patrick’s Cathedral, accompanied by Dean Victor Stacey (extreme right) and others who took part in the launch. (Photo: Lynn Glanville)

Archbishop Richard Clarke and Archbishop Eamon Martin display a ‘Gift of Life’ donor card at the Dublin launch of FAB in St Patrick’s Cathedral, accompanied by Dean Victor Stacey (extreme right) and others who took part in the launch. (Photo: Lynn Glanville)

The ‘fleshandblood’ (FAB) campaign, which was endorsed by last May’s Church of Ireland General Synod, was officially launched last week at two special events in Armagh and Dublin attended by the Church of Ireland and the Roman Catholic Archbishops of Armagh, the Most Revd Richard Clarke and the Most Revd Eamon Martin respectively.

The FAB initiative aims to encourage Church congregations to see blood and organ donation as a part of their giving.

It also seeks to equip people as advocates for blood and organ donation, enabling them to raise awareness of the need for donors with their family, friends and community, potentially helping to save thousands of lives each year.

Both Archbishops attended the launches, the first in St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Armagh, followed by the second, a few days later, in St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, Dublin.



The yearly celebration of the life and ministry of St Patrick always brings the Irish Church back to its roots. This awareness of the historic origins of the Church in Ireland in its own way can be a source of renewal of the Church’s confidence in its message and its ministry today. We look back to an age when the Irish people first embraced the Christian faith as a consequence both of Patrick’s faithful endeavours and of the promptings and stirrings of the Holy Spirit in this land. Those first believers on Irish soil were to see the Church grow and it eventually became part of the very fabric of Irish society.

The first days of the early Celtic Church in this land were days of intense faith, remarkable outreach and developing ecclesial identity. By contrast, we today live in an Ireland in which the Church is very often finding itself moved from the centre of life to its margins. In a rather strange way, church buildings are increasingly being adapted for all sorts of uses quite different from their original purpose as places of worship and, in terms of ecclesiastical office, highly placed individuals are increasingly finding their relevance questioned and themselves no longer at the centre of attention as in previous times. Yet, this process of secularization has its own important lessons for Church people, who should not allow themselves to become dispirited because of the changing spiritual landscape. It has been said that every crisis is also an opportunity in its own way.
What are the opportunities that can be identified for the Irish Church in this ‘brave new world’? Without placing them in any order of priority, we would highlight three in particular.

• Ecumenism: First, the Churches are now much more inclined to see themselves as being together in their predicament. This new awareness of being together, and of the Churches’ actual reliance on one another, brings a real opportunity for truly ecumenical life and witness and, thereby, for the Churches together to rediscover their one, true soul.

• Mission: Unity brings with it a new opportunity for mission because competition between denominations now can give way to a greater sense of common purpose in communicating the love of God to a world that, as much as ever, truly needs to know the rule of love. Common spiritual purpose is a deeper dynamic than ecclesial competitiveness because the collaborative character of common purpose is much more true to the nature of the Church as one community of faith.

• Doctrine: Then again, there is an opportunity arising from the Church’s need, in its increasingly marginalized context, to look again to its fundamental teachings. This is an opportunity, and a challenge, to declare the apostolic faith yet more clearly, yet more boldly and yet more fearlessly to the world around us.


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Letters to the Editor

The Church, the Constitution and same-sex marriage

AS MY reply to MrBrackenhas failed to eliminate his fears of unforeseen consequences of the marriage equality referendum (Letter, 20th February), please allow me to make two points of further clarification.

First, the opinion that passing the amendment will cause us to enter “uncharted legal territory” because there is no constitutional right to marry at present is misguided.Theentiremotive of the marriage equality campaign is to ensure that the existing right to marry is available to all citizens; if marriage was not a right already, then the campaign would be redundant.

While it is true that the Constitution does not define explicitly that marriage is between opposite-sex couples, the Supreme Court has accepted the
implicit right to marry and interpreted that Article 41 extends this right to opposite-sex couples exclusively.

As a Supreme Court interpretation of the Constitution is binding, we can take it that there is a constitutional right to marriage.

Moreover, international human rights frameworks, to which Ireland is a signatory and to which Irish law is subject, make it clear that the right to marry is a fundamental human right.

Second, the amendment benefits not just same-sex couples but the institution of marriage by providing an unambiguous definition: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”

The institution of marriage,  which elsewhere in the Constitution the State has pledged to defend because it is the foundation of the family, on which society is built, will be strengthened, as marriage and the family will receive the legal clarity and honour they deserve.

The consequences of the referendum are not unforeseeable. On the contrary, they are clearly visible: straight people who love each other will continue to get married, some gay people who love each other will start to get married and equal citizens will be treated more equally.

Meanwhile, the Church will continue its mission of building the kingdom of God.

Eimhin Walsh, Dublin 6

DUP ‘conscience clause’

THE OFFICIAL response by the Church of Ireland to the Democratic Unionist Party MLA Paul Givan’s ‘conscience clause’ has been shambolic in its conduct and regrettable in its content.

The Chair of the Church and Society Commission (CASC), the Revd Adrian Dorrian, told the Gazette that “CASC has not made a formal written response to Mr Givan’s consultation” (Gazette, 6th March). Can he explain why, unlike the Presbyterian Church and the Roman Catholic Church, CASC failed to do so?

Are the reported views of the Chair – “I welcome what Mr Givan is trying to achieve” – shared by the other members of the Commission? If yes, they should say so; if not, they should disassociate themselves from his comments.

The DUP clause declares that Christians in business need to be protected from “endorsing, promoting or facilitating” behaviour
or beliefs they find objectionable. However, it is only lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) persons from whom the Christians need to be protected. The bill does not invoke conscience objections by Christians in relation to any other minority group.

Readers should not be indifferent to the fate of their gay fellow-citizens. Why not extend the conscience clause to protect the non- ecumenical Christian businessman – a hotel owner, a printer, a photographer, a caterer – who is unwilling to “endorse, promote or facilitate” a mixed Catholic- Protestant couple?

Of all the issues that have brought the Roman Catholic Church and the DUP together, it is their shared negative view of gay people as “intrinsically disordered” and same-sex relationships as “sinful”.

This will only increase the level of homophobia in a society which has already one of the highest levels in Europe of violent assaults on gay people.
Fortunately, a quarter of a million persons worldwide signed the online petition in opposition to the DUP move. Thank God for them, as it would appear that the gay minority cannot depend on the Church of Ireland to defend them from this DUP discrimination charter.

Where I agree with Mr Dorrian is that this is “a real watershed moment before our society”. Changing Attitude Ireland is opposed to the clause, as are the Equality Commission, Trade Unions, Amnesty International and some of our political parties.

It would be helpful if other members of our Church would now also go on public record in disassociating themselves and our Church from this invidious legislation.

Dr Richard O’Leary Chair, Changing Attitude Ireland,  Holywood Co. Down BT18

Charlie Hebdo – the bigger picture

VARIOUS ISSUES are raised by the Revd Colin McCormack’s letter regarding the Charlie Hebdo tragedy (Gazette, 27th February).

We cannot blame the Islamic “system” for the extremist views of those who kill on the streets of Paris or in Iraq or Syria. If faith systems are to blame for such events, then the Christian faith system would have to be blamed for the massacre of Muslims in the Balkans in the latter part of the 20th century.

There is a danger in quoting verses of the Quran. While some Christians are at home quoting a Bible verse to clinch an argument or ‘prove’ a point, yet to quote from the Quran is not the way to prove or disprove a point of Muslim teaching.

There are just too many hurdles to jump and rivers to cross in any quoting of Islam’s sacred text, the first of which is that only the Arabic text can be quoted. What we call ‘translation’ is for Islam

People often tend to forget the huge debt we in the West owe to Islam, which includes philosophy, medicine, mathematics and astronomy.

Without Islam’s contribution to European culture, the Renaissance would have been postponed probably for a very long time.

Respect for Islam is surely the way forward, even where we disagree with some of its teaching.

I am not advocating Islam nor painting a golden ecumenical future. I just want to see people trying to listen and understand one another regarding their faith.

An ever-deepening respect by patience and a caring concern for others – be they Christian, Muslim or of any other religion – is part of the Kingdom of God on earth.

Sid Mourant (The Revd) Hamiltonsbawn Armagh BT61.

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