Speech by An Taoiseach, Mr Leo Varadkar
Holy Father, on behalf of the Irish people, I want to greet you using one of the oldest blessings we use to welcome a special guest to Ireland – céad míle fáilte – one hundred thousand welcomes.
And, given the hundreds of thousands of people who will come out to see you, to hear you say mass, and to receive your blessing, I can think of no welcome more appropriate.
I know you spent a few weeks in Dublin in 1980 at the Jesuit centre in Milltown Park learning English, so we are delighted to welcome you back to Ireland.
1980 was a year after the visit of Pope John Paul II and we are so grateful that his prayers for peace on our island were eventually answered through the Good Friday Agreement. A peace we will protect and nurture.
Today I am privileged to welcome representatives from all communities in Northern Ireland and from Britain here today. Together we are guided by your words: ‘Make bridges, not walls, because walls fall.’
We are also joined here today by people from all walks of life, members of government and frontline public servants, those born here and those who have chosen to come here, men and women, young and old, Catholics, as well as members of other faiths and none.
We all share a common home – and it is our duty to nurture this planet and look after its people.
Holy Father, we thank you for your care for the earth, for emphasising the urgent challenge of climate change, and for reminding us of our responsibilities. We thank you for the empathy you have shown for the poor, for migrants, and for refugees.
Although you are here principally for a Pastoral Visit in the form of the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, we are grateful that you have found time to do other things, including this event in Dublin Castle, a visit to our President, and Mass in the Phoenix Park. We are also delighted that you are taking time to visit the shrine at Knock, and we hope that, during a future visit, it will be possible for you to travel to Northern Ireland.
Is de bharr do chuairte, tá go leor againne ag smaoineamh níos faide agus níos doimhne anois ar an gcaidreamh atá idir Éirinn agus an Eaglais Chaitliceach Rómánach … creideamh a thugadh go hÉirinn na céadta bliain ó shin.
Sa séú haois, thug file, scoláire agus manach darb ainm Columbán … nó “Saint Columbanus mar a thugtar air sa Bhéarla, teachtaireacht an tsoiscéil ar ais chun na Mór-Roinne. Is de thoisc a chuid oibre, tugadh an teideal an chéad Eorpach na hÉireann air agus Naomh-Phatrún dóibh siúd atá ag iarraidh Eoraip chomhaontaithe a chur i gcríoch
Your visit has caused many of us to reflect further and more deeply on the relationship between Ireland and the Roman Catholic Church, a faith brought to Ireland centuries ago.
In the 6th century it was an Irish poet, scholar and monk, St Columbanus, who brought the message of the gospel back to the continent. Because of his work he has been called Ireland’s first European and the patron saint of all who seek to construct a united Europe.
The Christian faith inspired many of the people, Catholic and Protestant, who led our campaigns for freedom and independence. Indeed both the 1916 Proclamation of Independence and the Constitution invoke God in their opening lines. In more recent years, Christian Democracy and Christian ideas also helped to inform and guide the founders of the European Union inspiring a continent to abandon war in favour of ever closer co-operation.
The Catholic Church has always helped us to understand that we are citizens of a wider world and part of a global family.
Our brave missionary priests and nuns provided an education to many around the world, and helped the sick, the poor and the vulnerable. Today our UN peacekeepers and our international development workers around the world follow in that proud tradition, and charities like Trócaire and Concern help those who suffer from famine today, and also refugees.
People of profound Christian faith provided education to our children when the State did not, in the open air next to hedgerows and in the schools and educational institutions they built. They founded our oldest hospitals, staffed them, and provided welfare for so many of our people. We think of the many wonderful organizations today who continue that work, like St. Vincent de Paul to name just one.
It is easy to forget that the Irish State, founded in 1922, did not set up a Department of Health or a Department of Social Welfare until 1947.
These are now our two largest and best funded Government Departments accounting for more than half of Government spending between them today. Providing healthcare, education and welfare is now considered a core function of our State. When the state was founded, it was not. The Catholic Church filled that gap to the benefit of many generations of our people. We remain profoundly grateful for that contribution.
Even today, as we struggle with a housing shortage and homelessness, Catholic organizations and people inspired by their Catholic faith fill a gap in providing services, for example, through organisations like CrossCare.
Holy Father, during your papacy, we have all witnessed your compassion for those on the edge of our society, those who have not shared in our relative prosperity, those you (sic) have slipped through the net.
Your visit to the Capuchin Day Centre later today reminds us of work we still have to do to ensure that the promise of the New Testament is fulfilled, that we rejoice with the truth, always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere. And never fail.
At times in the past we have failed. There are ‘dark aspects’ of the Catholic Church’s history, as one of our bishops recently said. We think of the words of the Psalm which tells us that ‘children are a heritage from the Lord’ and we remember the way the failures of both Church and State and wider society created a bitter and broken heritage for so many, leaving a legacy of pain and suffering.
It is a history of sorrow and shame.
In place of Christian charity, forgiveness and compassion, far too often there was judgement, severity and cruelty, in particular, towards women and children and those on the margins.
Magdalene Laundries, Mother and Baby Homes, industrial schools, illegal adoptions and clerical child abuse are stains on our State, our society and also the Catholic Church. Wounds are still open and there is much to be done to bring about justice and truth and healing for victims and survivors.
Holy Father, I ask that you use your office and influence to ensure this is done here in Ireland and across the World.
In recent weeks, we have all listened to heart-breaking stories from Pennsylvania of brutal crimes perpetrated by people within the Catholic Church, and then obscured to protect the institution at the expense of innocent victims. It is a story all too tragically familiar here in Ireland.
There can only be zero tolerance for those who abuse innocent children or who facilitate that abuse.
We must now ensure that from words flow actions.
Above all, Holy Father, I ask to you to listen to the victims.
The Ireland of the 21st century is a very different place today than it was in the past. Ireland is increasingly diverse.
One in six of us were not born here, and there are more and more people who adhere to other faiths, or who are comfortable in declaring that they subscribe to no organised religion.
We have voted in our parliament and by referendum to modernise our laws – understanding that marriages do not always work, that women should make their own decisions, and that families come in many forms including those headed by a grandparent, lone parent or same-sex parents or parents who are divorced.
Holy Father, I believe that the time has now come for us to build a new relationship between church and state in Ireland – a new covenant for the 21st Century. It is my hope that your visit marks the opening of a new chapter in the relationship between Ireland and the Catholic Church.
Building on our intertwined history, and learning from our shared mistakes, it can be one in which religion is no longer at the centre of our society, but in which it still has an important place.
One with greater diversity and choice when it comes to the patronage of our schools – and where publicly-funded hospitals are imbued with a civic and scientific ethos.
Ireland is a different country than it was 39 years ago. Modern Ireland is still a country with faith and spirit and values. Family, community, enterprise, social justice, diversity, openness and internationalism, equality before the law, and individual liberty -these values describe the Republic we aspire to be.
We thank you for your visit, and ask for your prayers as we start on that journey together.
Speech by Pope Francis in Dublin Castle
Taoiseach, Members of Government and of the Diplomatic Corps, Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the beginning of my visit to Ireland, I am grateful for the invitation to address this distinguished assembly representing the civil, cultural and religious life of the country, together with the members of the diplomatic corps and guests. I appreciate the friendly welcome I have received from the President of Ireland, which reflects the tradition of cordial hospitality for which the Irish are known throughout the world. I likewise appreciate the presence of a delegation from Northern Ireland.
As you know, the reason for my visit is to take part in the World Meeting of Families, held this year in Dublin. The Church is, in a real way, a family among families, and senses the need to support families in their efforts to respond faithfully and joyfully to their God-given vocation in society.
The Meeting is not only an opportunity for families to reaffirm their commitment to loving fidelity, mutual assistance and reverence for God’s gift of life in all its forms, but also to testify to the unique role played by the family in the education of its members and the development of a sound and flourishing social fabric.
I would like to see the World Meeting of Families as a prophetic witness to the rich patrimony of ethical and spiritual values that it is the duty of every generation to cherish and protect.
One need not be a prophet to perceive the difficulties faced by our families in today’s rapidly evolving society, or to be troubled by the effects that breakdown in marriage and family life will necessarily entail for the future of our communities at every level. Families are the glue of society; their welfare cannot be taken for granted, but must be promoted and protected by every appropriate means.
It was in the family that each of us took his or her first steps in life. There we learned to live together in harmony, to master our selfish instincts and reconcile our differences, and above all to discern and seek those values that give authentic meaning and fulfilment to our lives.
If we speak of our entire world as a single family, it is because we rightly acknowledge the bonds of our common humanity and we sense our call to unity and solidarity, especially with the weakest of our brothers and sisters.
Yet all too often, we feel impotent before the persistent evils of racial and ethnic hatred, intractable conflicts and violence, contempt for human dignity and for fundamental human rights, and the growing divide between rich and poor. How much we need to recover, in every instance of political and social life, the sense of being a true family of peoples! And never to lose hope or the courage to persevere in the moral imperative to be peacemakers, reconcilers and guardians of one another.
Here in Ireland, this challenge has a special resonance, in light of the long conflict that separated brothers and sisters of a single family. Twenty years ago, the international community followed attentively the events in Northern Ireland that led to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.
The Irish government, in union with the political, religious and civil leaders of Northern Ireland and the British government, and with the support of other world leaders, created a dynamic context for the peaceful settlement of a conflict that had caused untold pain on both sides.
We can give thanks for the two decades of peace that followed this historic agreement, while expressing firm hope that the peace process will overcome every remaining obstacle and help give birth to a future of harmony, reconciliation and mutual trust.
The Gospel reminds us that true peace is ultimately God’s gift; it flows from a healed and reconciled heart and branches out to embrace the entire world. Yet it also requires constant conversion on our part, as the source of those spiritual resources needed to build a society of authentic solidarity, justice and service of the common good.
Without that spiritual foundation, our ideal of a global family of nations risks becoming no more than another empty platitude. Can we say that the goal of creating economic prosperity leads of itself to a more just and equitable social order?
Or could it be that the growth of a materialistic “throwaway culture” has in fact made us increasingly indifferent to the poor and to the most defenceless members of our human family, including the unborn, deprived of the very right to life?
Perhaps the most disturbing challenges to our consciences in these days is the massive refugee crisis, which will not go away, and whose solution calls for a wisdom, a breadth of vision and a humanitarian concern that go far beyond short-term political decisions.
I am very conscious of the circumstances of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters – I think especially of those women who in the past have endured particularly difficult situations. With regard to the most vulnerable, I cannot fail to acknowledge the grave scandal caused in Ireland by the abuse of young people by members of the Church charged with responsibility for their protection and education.
The failure of ecclesiastical authorities – bishops, religious superiors, priests and others – adequately to address these repellent crimes has rightly given rise to outrage, and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community. I myself share those sentiments.
My predecessor, Pope Benedict, spared no words in recognising both the gravity of the situation and in demanding that “truly evangelical, just and effective” measures be taken in response to this betrayal of trust. His frank and decisive intervention continues to serve as an incentive for the efforts of the Church’s leadership both to remedy past mistakes and to adopt stringent norms meant to ensure that they do not happen again.
Each child is in fact a precious gift of God, to be cherished, encouraged to develop his or her gifts, and guided to spiritual maturity and human flourishing.
The Church in Ireland, past and present, has played a role in promoting the welfare of children that cannot be obscured. It is my hope that the gravity of the abuse scandals, which have cast light on the failings of many, will serve to emphasise the importance of the protection of minors and vulnerable adults on the part of society as a whole. In this regard, all of us are aware of how urgent it is to provide our young people with wise guidance and sound values on their journey to maturity.
Dear friends, almost ninety years ago, the Holy See was among the first international institutions to recognise the Irish Free State. That initiative signalled the beginning of many years of dynamic cooperation and harmony, with only an occasional cloud on the horizon. Recently intensive endeavour and goodwill on both sides have contributed significantly to a promising renewal of those friendly relations for the mutual benefit of all.
The threads of that history reach back to over a millennium and a half ago, when the Christian message, preached by Palladius and Patrick, found a home in Ireland and became an integral part of Irish life and culture. Many “saints and scholars” were inspired to leave these shores and bring their newfound faith to other lands.
To this day, the names of Columba, Columbanus, Brigid, Gall, Killian, Brendan and so many others are still revered throughout Europe and beyond. On this island monasticism, as a source of civilization and artistic creativity, wrote a splendid page in Irish and universal history.
Today as in the past, the men and women who live in this country strive to enrich the life of the nation with the wisdom born of their faith. Even in Ireland’s darkest hours, they found in that faith a source of the courage and commitment needed to forge a future of freedom and dignity, justice and solidarity. The Christian message has been an integral part of that experience, and has shaped the language, thought and culture of people on this island.
It is my prayer that Ireland, in listening to the polyphony of contemporary political and social discussion, will not be forgetful of the powerful strains of the Christian message that have sustained it in the past, and can continue to do so in the future.
With these thoughts, I cordially invoke upon you, and upon all the beloved Irish people, God’s blessings of wisdom, joy and peace. Thank you.