Archbishop Eamon Martin and Church of Ireland Archbishop Richard Clarke spent an hour in conversation with BBC NI presenter Tara Mills at the Marketplace Theatre in Armagh on 16 March. The conversation would centre on what Saint Patrick meant to the two archbishops.
Archbishop Richard Clarke welcomed the crowd, expressing his belief that God, and Saint Patrick, do not ‘do labels’ or segregate people. He spoke on the cost of Christian discipleship, which can often be difficult and dangerous, and how Saint Patrick personified that cost – through the many sufferings he endured in his ministry, and particularly as he extended the witness of the Christian Church in Ireland.
Archbishop Eamon Martin reflected that every year at this time he reads Saint Patrick’s Confession and Letter to Coroticus, and that when he thinks of Saint Patrick, two words come to mind – Mercy and Mission. God calls us to be merciful to others as he has been merciful to us. Mercy then leads to mission. In his mission, Patrick went to the people on the margins, on the edge, and he challenges us to do the same.
The two archbishops discussed how St Patrick is ‘in the DNA’ of both traditions. Saint Patrick is someone that all Christian traditions share together. As celebrations grow across Ireland, especially in civic and social contexts, the bishops reminded of the need to not exclude the spiritual and deeply Christian aspects of Saint Patrick’s Day.
Thoughts then turned to the refugee and migrant crisis. It was remembered that Patrick was a migrant when he came to Ireland. The questions were posed ‘how do we welcome refugees today’ and ‘are we doing enough’ to help them. The archbishops reminded all present of those who had to leave Ireland for distant lands, and the positive influences they have had in different countries. Most importantly, we must not de-humanise people. We should value each other as having intrinsic worth and being made in the image of God.
Towards the end of the event, an audience member summed up the night well by congratulating the two archbishops on how warmly they had engaged with one another, and how strong a message this gave to the Armagh community as they continue to live in their different traditions.