Archbishop Martin: ‘Huge generosity came from the Irish diaspora and locally from our Protestant neighbours’

25 Aug, 2023 | Bishops, News

On 24 August, Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh celebrated Evening Prayer in the Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the dedication of the Cathedral.  As part of this special anniversary, a new icon of Saint Patrick was presented to the Cathedral.  The icon had been prayerfully and lovingly written by the Redemptoristine sisters of Drumcondra in Dublin

In front of a packed cathedral, Archbishop Eamon said,There’s a beautiful Latin hymn that is sometimes sung on the anniversary of the dedication of a church: Locus iste a Deo factus est: This place was made by God!

“Every time I visit this beautiful cathedral of Saint Patrick, look up at the splendid ceiling and see the colourful light spilling in through the stained glasses windows, I cannot help thinking: ‘This place was made by God!’

“People who come here – of various Christian traditions, other faiths, even people who profess no particular faith or belief – are touched by the beauty of this place, because the Cathedral points us to something beyond our senses: to the Transcendent God, ‘Three in One and One in Three’, who is Truth and Beauty itself.

“Visiting Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is not like entering a museum or art gallery. This is the Lord’s house; it is a living space of prayer which is deeply sacred.  For a century and a half, people have come here to lift their hearts and minds to God: in praise and thanksgiving; in sorrow and petition and intercession.  I think of all the baptisms, the first communion and confirmation ceremonies, the weddings and funerals that have taken place here.  Imagine the millions of prayers that have been offered up here in times of joy and sadness; worry and happiness.  I think of all the candles lit quietly in prayer, and faithful people asking God’s help with important relationships, decisions or exams; placing their hopes and fears before God.

“The foundation stone of the Cathedral was laid by Archbishop William Crolly on Saint Patrick’s Day, 1840.  There is a plaque just here on the sanctuary steps which commemorates that joyful moment for the Catholics of Ireland.  That was like a renaissance moment after Catholic Emancipation – to have our own Cathedral here in Armagh, the see of Saint Patrick, after centuries of discrimination and exclusion.  No wonder twenty to thirty thousand people turned up for the occasion!

“But sadly, within a few years, the Great Famine hit Ireland and work on the new cathedral had to be suspended; the funds raised were distributed for the relief of the poor – Archbishop Crolly himself died of cholera in Drogheda on Good Friday in 1849.  His body was taken back here to Armagh and he was laid to rest near this very spot in his unfinished cathedral.

“It wasn’t until six years later, at Easter 1854, that the construction recommenced under the leadership of Primate Joseph Dixon, with a new architect and a revised design.  But Primate Dixon himself died unexpectedly before the work was finished and it fell to Archbishop Daniel McGettigan to complete the Cathedral.   He declared Sunday 24 August 1873 as the day of opening and dedication.  Massive crowds from all over Ireland, and beyond, gathered in Armagh for the occasion.”

To read the full text of Archbishop Martin’s homily, please click here 



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