On Saturday last, Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, spoke to the graduate class of 2022 in theology and philosophy in his role as Chancellor of Saint Patrick’s Pontifical University, Maynooth.
In his address, Archbishop Martin said to the graduates, “Church wise, so much has changed in this last 35 years. I could never have imagined, leaving Maynooth, 35 years ago, the seismic changes that were to take place – the significant decline in regular sacramental practice; the fall-off in vocations to the priesthood and religious life; the shocking revelations of abuse in the Church. I sometimes wonder why it is that, when we were studying theology here in the 1980s, we didn’t anticipate what was about to happen in the Church – perhaps we should have; was it because, in our studying and reading of Theology and Philosophy, we didn’t engage enough in open discussion and dialogue, or really grapple with the big questions of the day for the Church and its mission?”
Emphasising the importance of the Synodal Pathway for the Church in Ireland, the Primate continued, “I believe that is why many people are finding the current Synodal process in the Church to be stimulating and refreshing, and are welcoming the opportunity to engage in prayerful discernment and discussion; although, I do recognise that not all feel that way: some Catholics are confused by the Synodal process; they find such openness a potential threat to the stability and certainty of Church teaching. It is therefore very important that we work hard together to preserve the unity and communion of the Church at this time.
“In August the Irish Bishops published the key points that were heard during the first phase of the Synodal process. The National Synthesis reveals significant challenges for the handing on of the faith in Ireland. There are clear calls for greater transparency and participation in decision making and for more accountability within our parish and diocesan church structures. There is a longing to connect with the energy and gifts of our young people and a call to discover fresh models of responsibility and leadership in the Church which will facilitate the role of women, as well as men, and help reach out to those who in recent decades have left the Church, or who feel excluded, forgotten or ignored. There is a crying need for atonement, inner healing and hope in the aftermath of the abuse scandals.”
Archbishop Eamon concluded saying, “Dear graduates, congratulations again! Celebrate and give thanks for what you have achieved, but please do not see this as the end of your journey in learning and in faith. Be mindful of the many people who have helped you along the way – your lecturers and tutors, supervisors, mentors and sponsors – not just those who directly assisted your learning process, but also your friends and loved ones who encouraged you to achieve your full potential.
“Thank God for giving such success to the work of our hands. Guim rath Dé ar bhuir saotháir amach anseo. Comhghairdeas libh go leir.”