Bishop of Cork takes leading role in pastoral response to flooding in his diocese
The Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, the Rt Revd Paul Colton, has given a strong lead in responding pastorally to ooding in his diocese.
He told the Gazette last week: “I spent New Year’s Eve with Susan [Mrs Colton] visiting Bandon and Midleton to meet people – businesses and homeowners – affected by the flooding.
“It became apparent that there were people who needed immediate assistance and I was able to arrange that.
“As it got dark and quiet at one flooded housing estate in Midleton on New Year’s Eve, a local County Councillor intimated to me that he had no accommodation for one homeless family; he had run out of options.
“There and then I telephoned Dr Edward Gash who is Principal of Midleton College, and although the College was closed down for the Christmas holidays we fired up the heating system and accommodated them in the dormitories there for the following four nights.
“We also made the offer of accommodation more widely known on social media to others.”
Dr Colton told us that this was but one example of where some people were “falling through the cracks” of the emergency response.
He said he had also spent time speaking with Council workers, volunteers, fire service, civil defence volunteers and many others who were working very
hard and doing their best in a very difficult situation.
TOWARDS A ‘FINER FUTURE’
The 2016 commemorations of the 1916 Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme hold out the prospect of yet deeper mutual understanding and respect across the island of Ireland. The Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Richard Clarke, and his Roman Catholic counterpart, Dr Eamon Martin, have both stressed, through their joint prayer initiative at the New Year, the importance of how “people across the island might use the 2016 commemorations as ways in which we might learn to live and work together for a finer future”.
Indeed, already last autumn, the Church of Ireland Historical Centenaries Working Group, which is chaired by the Bishop of Clogher, the Rt Revd John McDowell, in conjunction with the Unionist Centenaries Committee, held an event at Willowfield church in East Belfast, exploring the attitudes of Dublin Protestants at the time of the Rising and their relationship to the State today (Gazette report, 13th November). It is precisely this kind of imaginative event that will help towards greater mutual understanding.
However, in his 3rd January published sermon in St Patrick’s cathedral, Dublin, the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, focusing on the centenaries of the Rising and the Battle of the Somme, struck what seemed to be a rather foreboding note when he warned of a danger that “our shared confusion about the past” might become “a dominant motif which overshadows the future”, and going so far as to identify the ideologies of ‘the two communities’ as being “the enemy of the other”.
Is it too much to hope that the commemorations, in particular of the Rising, will not run into such trouble?
So far, at any rate, the Decade of Commemorations has been going well. The 2012 centenary of the Ulster Covenant was a positive experience, as was the centenary of the outbreak of World War I in 2014. Both of these commemorations created more mutual understanding, which is precisely what is needed to dispel any future shadows.
Yet, in a 5th January article in The Irish Times, Patsy McGarry, the newspaper’s Religious Affairs correspondent, raised the stakes when he declared that the Rising was “an immoral and anti-democratic act organised by a minority within a minority, who, looking into their own souls, saw there what they deemed was right for the Irish people”. He also stated that marking the event at Easter “is to concede to the quasi-blasphemous religious stance of Pearse and his colleagues”. Referring to the 485 people killed in the Rising, Mr McGarry further noted that most of them had been civilians, 40 of them children under 17, “none of whom asked to die”, and pointed out that all had been ignored at the Dublin Castle New Year ceremonies, “except for the 78 volunteers killed, whose names were read out”, adding: “They at least chose to be part in the Rising.”
Some might question the value of the looking backwards that is inevitable in marking centenaries. The whole process of bringing about that “finer future” will, however, require that society looks carefully at its past and that people with differing perceptions of past events are prepared to reassess those perceptions through reflection and respectful dialogue. It is part of the process of not being ‘stuck in the past’.
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