From the Cathedral City of Armagh, I send warm Saint Patrick’s Day greetings to all Irish people at home and abroad and to all who join us in celebrating our patron saint. Conscious that our National Apostle first encountered Ireland as a migrant, I offer special greetings to the ‘new Irish’ – the many migrants who have made their home among us. Céad míle fáilte romhaibh!
Saint Patrick’s Day, Lá ‘le Pádraig is both a day of celebration and challenge. In this 1916 centenary year, as we reflect on all that we have become and achieved as a people and a nation, we have much to thank God for. Although a small number of people attempt to drag Ireland back to unrest and violence, people from across our communities are strongly committed to building bridges towards lasting peace. Ireland remains the land of a thousand welcomes: visitors to our shores remark on our friendliness, generosity and kindness. We are renowned the world over for our music, dance, literature and for the breathtaking beauty of our landscapes and coasts. Our Christian roots run deep, and Irish homes and families are largely characterised by the Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity.
But the Ireland of 2016 faces many challenges – including poverty, homelessness and huge pressures on family life – which can so easily lead to a sense of despair and hopelessness for many of our people. I am reminded today of the words which Pope Saint John Paul II spoke many years ago to the late President of Ireland, Dr Patrick Hillery, when he said:
‘Modern Ireland was founded on a vision of a society capable of responding to the deepest aspirations of its people and ensuring respect for the dignity and rights of all its citizens. That vision is linked to a profound yearning for the effective realisation of the profound human values that have never ceased to resound in the minds and hearts of the Irish people.’
As we reflect on Saint Patrick’s life and mission in the Year of Mercy, we remember Patrick’s deep personal sense of God’s mercy and his desire to spread that mercy to others. In bringing the message of Christianity he was sustained by his friendship with God the Father and a profound sense of Christ’s presence surrounding him – so eloquently expressed in the beautiful prayer: Saint Patrick’s Breastplate. Following the example of Patrick, I call on Irish people, at home and abroad: open yourselves up to a personal friendship with Christ and to an experience of God’s mercy in your lives. This experience will change your life, as it did for Saint Patrick, and it will inspire you, in turn, to reach out in mercy and charity to those who are suffering and in need.
As Irish people, we cannot think of Patrick – the captive, the slave in exile, the undocumented, the migrant – without acknowledging the enormous humanitarian and pastoral challenges facing growing numbers of people who find themselves displaced and without status in our world. This is so shockingly exemplified by the refugee crisis here in Europe. I ask you to pray for refugees and for all displaced families at this time.
On the feast of our national patron, I wish to highlight in particular the plight of Irish emigrants throughout the world. This past year, following the tragedies at Berkeley, we have become especially aware of the great work undertaken by Irish emigrant chaplaincies in the United States, Britain and Australia. Inspired by the teaching of the Gospel, they provide essential pastoral outreach to many Irish people as they try to establish a foothold in a new society.
Guím idirghuí Naomh Pádraig ar ár lucht imirce scaite ar fud na cruinne. Ba dheoraí Naomh Pádraig é féin tráth. Tuigeann sé ár n’uaigneas agus ár m’briseadh chroí. Guím beannacht, rath agus séan ár bPatrúin oraibh uilig.
+ Eamon Martin