Shortly before the New Year, the Archbishops of Armagh, Archbishop Eamon Martin and Church of Ireland Archbishop Richard Clarke, and clergy and staff from both Cathedral parishes of Armagh took part in Onus training as part of the Safe Church Initiative. Joining the initiative, the two Saint Patrick’s Cathedrals in Armagh are now designated as Safe Churches and pledge never to commit, condone or stay silent about domestic violence and abuse and to provide support to those in need.
Archbishop Eamon Martin highlighted the issue of domestic violence as part of his New Year’s Message, which he offered during Mass in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, on the World Day of Peace, 1 January. In his message Archbishop Eamon said, ‘In the face of such huge longing and need for peace at a global level, we sometimes forget that the work of peace begins in our own hearts and in our homes. If our Sign of Peace at Mass is to be authentic, then it challenges us to face the tensions and contradictions in our own personal lives and in our own families.
‘We all yearn to be at peace with ourselves and with one another, but the sad reality is that many individuals struggle with inner turmoil, mental health or addiction issues and a large number of homes and families are impacted by disagreements, family rivalries, bitterness, resentment and even violence.
‘The high levels of depression, addictions and anxiety in our country, and the frightening reality of domestic violence is not often spoken about openly, but it is an indication of the huge need that exists for inner peace and family reconciliation.’
He continued, ‘Organisations like Women’s Aid alert us to the fact that at least 14% of all crime reported to the police last year was related to domestic violence with one call every 18 minutes. Just before Christmas, the Catholic and Church of Ireland Cathedral parishes here in Armagh came together for training in the Safe Church Initiative. We have pledged to play our part in raising awareness about domestic violence and abuse and in supporting anyone affected to confidentially access information. We hope to draw more attention to this initiative as we continue our preparations for the World Meeting of Families next August.’
Archbishop Eamon concluded, ‘My brothers and sisters as the New Year 2018 begins, the challenge to speak and live the message of peace remains more important than ever. My wish on this World Day of Peace is that Christians everywhere, who exchange the Sign of the Peace of Christ at the celebration of the Eucharist, will be empowered by God’s grace to become active ambassadors for peace in the Church and in the world, beginning in their own homes, families, workplaces and neighbourhoods. In this way the Sign of Peace will avoid becoming an empty or meaningless gesture, but will rather be an impulse and driver towards reconciliation and peace building.’
Archbishop Eamon’s full New Year’s Message can be read on www.catholicbishops.ie.
The Safe Church Award is an initiative of Onus (NI), a social enterprise established by Women’s Aid which offers a wide range of specialist services aimed at anyone affected by domestic violence or abuse. For more information on Onus and the Safe Church Initiative see www.onustraining.co.uk.