Archbishops of Armagh lead poignant peace pilgrimage
At the conclusion of an innovativethree-daypilgrimage last week to historical sites associated with the loss of life in 1916, Archbishop Richard Clarke and Archbishop Eamon Martin spoke of both the importance and signi cance of people journeying together from across different Christian and community traditions.
Beginning at the Memorial Wall at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin and continuing on to significant battle sites of the World War I in France and Belgium, the Archbishops led a centenary pilgrimage of 32 people.
They included a number of young adults from across the island – “the leaders of tomorrow” – from the 22nd to the 24th June, in what they described as “a spirit of peace- building”.
The two Archbishops of Armagh had felt, from the outset of their working relationship in Armagh, the importance of doing as much together as they possibly can.
EUROPE: A TIME TO REFLECT
After the bruising political battles of past weeks in the UK leading up to the national referendum on the country’s membership of the European Union, the ‘Leave’ decision brings a period of really intense campaigning to a culmination and all concerned, irrespective of whether they were in favour of or opposed to membership, must now pull together in the best interests of a country very divided on such a fundamental issue. Healing will be found if people treat one another with due respect.
As far as people across the island of Ireland are concerned, it is important that special arrangements are reached as swiftly as possible to protect businesses that rely so much on cross-border trade and on trade between the Republic of Ireland and the UK as a whole. This is not a time for panic but it is a time for wise, careful and prudent planning.
In May, Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers told the Gazette: “The border can be exactly the same after a Brexit vote as it is now.” She also stated that “with a bit of common sense and goodwill we can maintain a border which is just as open after a Brexit vote as it is today”. (Gazette, 27th May) These were categorical assurances and it is important for all the people of Ireland that they are carried through.
However, the referendum result surely demands that the EU itself considers very carefully the direction in which it has been going. As one BBC analysis among its many on this subject has shown, while euroscepticism has been a particularly marked dimension of British politics, it is also a mindset that is to be found across the EU, although in rather milder forms. Denmark and Sweden, like the UK, have opted to stay out of the eurozone and there are rising eurosceptic voices in Finland. In eastern Europe, there is a mindset that simply does not want to see the dictatorship of communism replaced with an overly centralised EU. France, Germany and Holland also have their eurosceptics. In Germany in particular, there is an unwillingness to be more and more financially liable for economic failures elsewhere in the Union. In southern Europe, there is frustration with the EU’s cumbersome response to the migrant crisis. Such widespread euroscepticism is real and it does give pause for reflection.
In this regard, it is significant that earlier this month, at a regular meeting, the Governing Board of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) – of which the Church of Ireland is a full member – approved an open letter addressed to its membership and partner organisations on the current situation in Europe. The letter launched what CEC described as “a broad process of consultation between CEC and its membership”, leading to the next CEC General Assembly in 2018.
The open letter poses some very fundamental challenges to the EU and to Europe as a whole. It states: “CEC observes with concern that in the Europe of today common values are less in evidence. The EU today is at a stage in its history where serious questions can be asked about its identity as a community of values. Soul searching is required anew and with renewed intensity.” This is a clear articulation of the need for the EU to consider its life and purpose in deeper than purely political or economic terms and the letter goes on to state that a neglect of issues of identity and social relationships has led to Europe’s “current empty heart”.
While a desire to maintain national sovereignty in different countries is acknowledged in CEC’s open letter, it rightly points out that sovereignty should not mean selfishness and closing one’s eyes to the legitimate needs of other people who are in need of solidarity, and continues: “Over and above sovereignty, CEC prefers koinonia to be the leading concept in the debate about the future of Europe. Koinonia focuses on how genuine communities, which are based on sharing, service and solidarity, can be created.”
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Letters to the Editor
I HAVE known the Revd Stephen Neill for a number of years and have appreciated his ministry. I found his article in the 3rd June Gazette interesting and agreed with most of it.
Unfortunately, the matter of abortion seems to be a pro- choice or anti-choice issue with no middle ground and Stephen has now embraced the former.
I was a registered nurse for almost 50 years and even when working in a senior educational capacity continued to maintain clinical experience throughout my career.
On one occasion in the UK when doing occasional weekend Agency work to complement my daily educational work, I was sent to a nursing home for a night’s work.
On arrival I discovered to my somewhat uncomfortable surprise that it was actually an abortion clinic calling itself a nursing home – and it was a post-operative night.
However, it would have been unprofessional of me to cut and run at that stage so I swallowed hard and continued working without comment.
I found the experience very traumatic. In the sluice were rows of dead babies at various stages of gestation, most of whom had clearly not been dead when aborted and some possibly also capable of supported, independent existence.
To me, it was like a baby abattoir.
About one-third of the mothers were from Ireland and during the night I took two or three enquiring telephone calls from Ireland.
In the morning, one Irish mother asked about having a funeral for her aborted baby and I told her I would pass on her request to the day staff.
After coming off duty, I told the Agency I did not want to work in any more abortion clinics.
I am in favour of repealing the 8th Amendment but not because I would necessarily fall on the pro-choice side of the fence.
After extensive education and training, doctors take the Hippocratic Oath in favour of life before they are permitted to qualify to practise. They are dedicated professionals and I feel that decisions regarding whether to abort a pregnancy or not should be a professional decision, possibly with more than one doctor involved, taken in consultation with the mother or mother and father if both parents are involved, and also where free counselling services are available.
I say this mindful that doctors, too, have varied practice opinions and experience – and it may be that, as a body, they want legal guidelines.
Again, I repeat my concurrence with most of Mr Neill’s comments but also fear the ‘baby abattoir’ situation I experienced as outlined above.
Diana Whitehead, Co. Clare
THE TROUBLE about abortion is that if you believe that life begins at conception then there are two people involved one of whom is killed off.
I race for the chair that my Down’s syndrome grandchild is rushing to knock over. I see the smile on his face and ask myself who has the right to deny him life.
He will never do an evil deed, yet 92 per cent of his brothers and sisters are aborted in the UK and America. So much for western civilisation.
Anselm Lovett Snr, Cavan
THE EDITORIAL in the Gazette issue of 24th June – ‘Orlando Massacre’ – states: “It is difficult to know just what to make of the apparent difference in approach between Archbishop and Bishop … ”
In his initial statement, Archbishop Jackson referred to an attack on a “specific community” – not an attack on the LGBT community, which is what it was.
He is not wrong but once again the language used did nothing to instill the sincerity which I’m sure Archbishop Jackson intended.
Many people did, however, share the sentiments of Bishop Colton when he tweeted: “Our prayers are shallow, an affront even, as long as so much religion fails fully to affirm and include LGBT people.”
Bishop Colton’s tweet has been retweeted 964 times and liked by 1,418 people. It has done more to instill a feeling of genuine self-worth in those affected by the atrocious murders of those in the LGBT community, and a hope that one day LGBT people will feel welcomed and affirmed in their own Church.
As Brandan Robertson said in a recent Instagram post: “So grateful for this friend, a true voice of reformation for LGBT people and all people within the Church of Ireland”.
Bishop Colton is but one man but we need more like him in the leadership of the Church speaking for us. That is the difference.
Mark Bowyer Dublin
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MUCH ADO ABOUT SOMETHING Author: Larry Culliford Publisher: SPCK
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