Sunday, March 31, 2013

Archbishop Welby Says Church Should Be 'Sign' Church of England must act as symbol of peace in an increasingly divided world, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said ahead of his first Easter Service.

The Most Rev Justin Welby said the Church has to show it can manage disagreement "gracefully" over issues such as women bishops and gay marriage.

The Archbishop said the Church faced a "challenge" of showing the rest of society that its members can hold different views but still remain "gracefully and deeply committed to each other".

He said if it can do so, it can be a "sign to the world" of peace and reconciliation.

It came on a day when millions of Christians around Britain and the world celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Archbishop of Canterbury also gave his first Easter Service but before he did so, he said in a recorded interview with a radio station: "We need to understand reconciliation within the Church as the transformation of destructive conflict, not unanimity. It doesn't mean we all agree, it is that we find ways of disagreeing, perhaps very passionately but loving each other deeply at the same time, gracefully and deeply committed to each other. That is the challenge for the Church and that is the challenge if the Church is actually going to speak to our society which is increasingly divided in many different ways, here and overseas, over huge issues."
Mr Welby's remarks were part of a wide-ranging interview for an Easter Sunday broadcast of the Travellers' Tales slot on Premier Christian Radio.

The 57-year-old former oil industry executive, who was enthroned earlier this month at Canterbury Cathedral, told the programme how he and his wide Caroline coped after their first born child, Johanna, died in a road accident in France in 1983.

He said: "God is aware of our suffering, of the suffering of this very broken world and our suffering was as nothing compared to many people and he is at work even in the darkest places."

Asked if he could sleep at night given the pressures of his new role as Archbishop of Canterbury, Mr Welby said: "I sleep well on the whole. I think one of the really important things about this job is that it is not a papacy, the Archbishop of Canterbury is only one among the diocesan bishops. The Church of England is episcopally led but synodically governed, so it is not even the bishops who all decide what happens."
The Archbishop, who has more than 25,000 followers on Twitter, said it was important to use the social networks but admitted he was not good at tweeting.

He said: "I try to tweet regularly, it is a strange old thing, because a lot of twitter stuff is 'well I am just having my second piece of toast for breakfast' that sort of stuff. I am not very good at it."

His last tweet was on March 27 when he said: "In Holy Week as we approach the cross we need to recognise both the suffering of the world around and our own need of repentance."

The Catholic leader of England and Wales hailed Easter as a "triumph of light over darkness and life over death".

In his Easter Vigil, the Archbishop of Westminster quoted recently-elected Pope Francis as he called for believers to live their faith with a "young heart".

Blessed Sacrament stolen from Kildare church

THE BLESSED SACRAMENT and other religious items were taken from a church in Sallins, county Kildare overnight.

Gardaí in Naas are investigating the burglary which occurred between 11.30pm Saturday and 9am Sunday.

Local priest Fr Declan Thompson told an Easter Sunday congregation this morning that the thieves had brought darkness to a place of worship.

Investigating gardaí would like to speak to anyone who may have information about the incident. 

They can call the local station on 045 884300 or the confidential line on 1800 666 111.

Easter Mesage 2013 - Archbishop Michael Jackson

Acts 10.34: Peter began to speak to Cornelius and the assembled crowd in Caesarea: I truly understand that God shows no partiality but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

Lent begins for all Christians worldwide on Ash Wednesday. For me this year it began, as it did for all of you here, on that very same day but it began in a very special and distinctive place, in Narnia. 

Throughout Lent, there has been not only a Narnia Exhibition in Christ Church Bray but a genuine Narnia Experience. Thousands of people have joined together in that experience and have had their picture of God and of God’s grace enhanced and enriched in the process. 

Human creatures, animal creatures, a waterfall and a ship called the Dawn Treader all were there to be explored, enjoyed and to be pondered upon. One of the most exciting things was that the only way down into the nave of the church throughout this entire period of Narnia was by going up into and walking through the ship and down again. This might seem to be of little consequence but in light of Acts 10 it really is quite important for our understanding the explosive character of Easter and the nature of the church.

For me, Narnia 2013 helped to transform Lent from being punitively gloomy and impossibly worthy to being openly stimulating and colourfully creative. It brought to life the words of the Lenten Collect which we have been using ever since that day until lunch time yesterday: Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing that you have madeCreate and make in us new and contrite hearts … Lent is undoubtedly a time of wilderness living but it is not a time of self–hatred nor is it a time of divine destruction. And it was the exuberance of colour, life, joy and teaching in The Narnia Experience which gave shape to this understanding of Lent for me and I will ever be grateful.

The transformation which is effected in Peter by the resurrection is surely a ground for hope for any of us. The person who is too frightened to remain in public view as a disciple of Jesus, particularly when subjected to relentless female questioning, now is seen arguing confidently that God is open to those in every nation who respect him and who do what is right. This message is of real significance to us as we find ourselves facing more and more unavoidably into an understanding of Christianity which has become far too settled in on itself and which is over–anxious about its orthodoxy (correct teaching) as opposed to its orthopraxy (correct doing) in the face of those who genuinely seek to be their best for God and to do their best for their neighbour within their strengths and their limitations. 

Christianity has become rather too good at ‘getting at’ people. Easter Day is the day when God’s goodness comes to meet us; it is the culmination of the process of Lent as well as being the next stage in the life of Christ – the triumph of life through the destroying of death in Jesus Christ. This is what gives conviction and confidence to Peter who can now hold together in love and understanding the full ministry of Jesus Christ as it worked itself out in the villages and towns of Galilee and as it swept unstoppably into the city of Jerusalem.

Mary Magdalen is the person of whose encounter with the Risen Jesus we hear most in St John. It is an entirely human meeting and is all the stronger for its air of fragile wistfulness. It has elements of loss and misunderstanding, of recognition and anticipation, of transformation and proclamation. And all of these elements are true to a genuine expression of Christian discipleship and belonging now as then. The most electrical thread of connection between this world and the next is when Jesus uses her name: Mary and when she replies to him by calling him Rabbouni. 

The relationship itself here is what matters most and the relationship is what transcends loss and misunderstanding and keeps alive the recognition and anticipation which in turn facilitate the transformation and the proclamation. And so the mission of the Son of God takes off again in Mary of Magdala and someone who hasn’t been ‘got at’ finds strength and joy which she felt had eluded and escaped her. 

I ask you to do no more than to cast your mind back to the earliest days of Lent. On Ash Wednesday, Holy Scripture asked us to confront hypocrisy in our lives (Matthew 6) and on 
The First Sunday in Lent to confront temptation (Matthew 4). We are asked not to be religious poseurs and we are asked not to be abusers of any part of God’s creation. It is from these self–righteous corruptions that a creative and a contrite Lent will have set us free – not so much for individual perfection but for compassionate responsibility in the care of ourselves and of others. 

This surely is a good working definition of what Peter says to Cornelius with new found Resurrection confidence: I truly understand that God shows no partiality but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.  

I bring you back to the Dawn Treader in Christ Church Bray. A ship is one of the earliest images for the church and it is St Augustine of Hippo whose basilica, rather like this cathedral church, faced the water and all of the maritime life of its day,   who makes the most of this image. He is, of course, writing in the stormy times of the Donatist controversy which, again, is not completely dissimilar from the tensions of orthodoxy with which we grapple today. 

Donatism was an understanding of religion which could not bury the hatchet, which had a totally unforgiving memory and which trumpeted the triumph of abstract orthodoxy over the discipleship of our best human efforts to respond to the divine self–emptying and self–giving. An unfussy rubbing along with others and the genuine capacity to compromise – these are the characteristics which Augustine singles out as essential not only to survival but to flourishing on the Ark of Noah in a truly catholic spirit. The vision of Peter in the house of Cornelius enables him to declare all foods to be clean. 

In this way Peter is himself released to envisage and to envision the people of Israel as extending into the nations of the earth, very much in the spirit of a number of the prophets, as he sets it out as he warms to his subject. This helps him to see and to say that God has no partiality, no favourites.

Having to walk through the nave of the Dawn Treader to get into the nave of the church on Ash Wednesday in Christ Church Bray was a reminder that on a ship we have to get on with each other if we are to be safe and if we are to be happy. 

Confinement brings with it the temptation to be horrid and we are going nowhere in the church by being horrid to one another. I wish all of you a very Happy Easter. I encourage you to take the freedom and the responsibility given you by the Risen Christ to live lives of joy and gladness for yourselves and for others. In the greeting which you share with those whom you meet, I want those people to be aware from you that Christ is risen indeed Alleluia!

St John 20.18: Mary Magdalen went and announced to the disciples, I have seen The Lord; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Easter Message 2013 - Bishop Paul Colton 10.34-36
‘Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him … Jesus Christ – he is Lord of all. ’
‘God shows no partiality…’ Or as other translations put it: ‘God is no respecter of persons’; or, ‘God has no favourites.

The world is full of people – indeed religions and churches are full – of people who think that God does have favourites; that God prefers them to other people.

This is one of the aspects of the story of religion that indicts believers. Throughout history, systems, institutions, political and social edifices have been based, (perversely in the name of Christ and by reliance on biblical literalism) on the belief God prefers some to others. 

‘God prefers me to you, or my way to your way.’ Jews were preferable to Gentiles; circumcised to uncircumcised; free people to slaves; men to women; our own people, to strangers and foreigners; people with property to people with no property; landowners to tenants; ruler to ruled; rich to poor; the white race to other races; straight people to gay people; adults to children; able people to disabled people, and so the list goes on of so many inequalities that are often subtly and perversely based on the idea that God favours one over the other. Within the Church we hear language used, such as ‘real’, or ‘true, Christians. 

To use the long ago, but still not far enough away clichés, not unique to Ireland, we’ve had Protestants believing they are more biblical and more saved than Roman Catholics; and Roman Catholics believing that theirs is a truer church than other churches.

Saint Peter, had to confront and challenge deep partialities and prejudices such as these within himself, but he came to the point where he was able to say:
I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him … Jesus Christ – he is Lord of all
He hadn’t always been able to say that’ and, in his day, it was a revolutionary idea. And it didn’t just stay as an idea; and he didn’t just speak the words; he actually crossed the barrier. He had his visionary experience which confronted him with an image of clean and unclean animals being lowered in front of him, and of being told to eat.  

His newfound understanding was put to a practical test when he a Jew, was called to the home of the centurion Cornelius, a Gentile. Cornelius did homage at Peter’s feet, but Peter said “Please get up, I am only a mortal. myself’  

Breaking a taboo, Peter went in to that house. Quite a crowd was eagerly waiting for him.  He said to them  ‘You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection.’ And the first words he spoke swept away the racial and religious prejudice of centuries:
I truly understand that God shows no partiality … Jesus Christ – he is Lord of all
He on to summarise for them the story of Jesus – one of the earliest examples of apostolic preaching: ‘they put him to death … but raised him on the third day.’

The point for us all on this Easter Day is, that Peter’s newly discovered conviction came from a life-changing encounter with the teaching of the crucified Jesus and the transforming and energising effects of his resurrection. Is that what the teaching of Jesus does to all of us who follow him?  

When we proclaim that ‘Christ is risen!’ are we open to being changed and transformed in that way? 

Are we open to our own favouritisms, biases and partialities being turned on their head?
I truly understand that God shows no partiality … Jesus Christ – he is Lord of all
Neither race, nor any other quality that marks some as different from others may separate a person from the love of Christ.  Neither ought these qualities to separate persons from one another.  The love of God is unbounded and universal in its scope.  It’s not that there are no terms: ‘anyone who fears God … and does what is right is acceptable to God’, says Peter.  The Easter faith is universal in its scope: it is inclusive:  Jesus Christ is ‘Lord of all.’  He opens doors rather than closes them.

In this tradition, the new Pope – Pope Francis broke new ground this week too – by washing the feet of young offenders on Maundy Thursday; but not merely that, he went to them at their youth detention facility; not all of them were Roman Catholic, and not only that, contrary to Canon Law, there were two women among them; and not only that, among their number was a Muslim.

Today we are baptising Emma and Jack.  Their baptism is a reminder to us all of what we are called to be and to try to become on this journey with the risen Christ.  It is about being amazed, as Peter and the women were that first Easter morning; and being transformed by Jesus’ death and resurrection ; by his life and teaching.

Life was never the same again for the women and men of that first Easter.  Can it also change us? Indeed, shouldn’t it change us and bring us – like Peter to the point where, at Cornelius’ house,  he could say, and we today should say and live lives based on this truth?
I truly understand that God shows no partiality … Jesus Christ – he is Lord of all

Easter Message 2013 - Bishop Michael Smith

“The light of Easter dispels the darkness and fears” – that was the message from Bishop Smith on Easter Sunday.  

The Bishop celebrated the Easter Vigil in the Cathedral and the Mass of the Lord’s Resurrection in St Paul’s Church on Easter Sunday.

In his homily, Bishop Smith reflected on the mixed emotions and motivations of the main players in the passion of Jesus.  

Pilate condemned an innocent man, leaving his conscience outside the door, but placed a proclamation of faith above the cross: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”.  

The chief priests jeered and mocked Jesus but, unsure about Him, they insisted that a guard be posted at the tomb, lest the unexpected take place.  

Likewise among the followers of Jesus, the passion exposed a variety of responses, from the desertion of the disciples to the faithfulness of the women and the decency of Joseph and Nicodemus. 

For each of these characters, there is “unease” in the face of Christ’s suffering and death.  

The resurrection and the empty tomb give hope and reassurance in answer to this “unease”. 

The questions that rest in the heart of every human person – what is death and life, why suffering and loss? – find their ultimate resolution in the resurrection. 

Christ has triumphed over death; the resurrection gives meaning and purpose to life on both sides of the tomb.

Urbi Et Orbi - Easter 2013 - Pope Francis
Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, Happy Easter!  Happy Easter!

What a joy it is for me to announce this message: Christ is risen!  I would like it to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons …

Most of all, I would like it to enter every heart, for it is there that God wants to sow this Good News: Jesus is risen, there is hope for you, you are no longer in the power of sin, of evil!  

Love has triumphed, mercy has been victorious!  The mercy of God always triumphs! 

We too, like the women who were Jesus’ disciples, who went to the tomb and found it empty, may wonder what this event means (cf. Lk 24:4).  What does it mean that Jesus is risen?  It means that the love of God is stronger than evil and death itself; it means that the love of God can transform our lives and let those desert places in our hearts bloom.  The love God can do this!  

This same love for which the Son of God became man and followed the way of humility and self-giving to the very end, down to hell - to the abyss of separation from God - this same merciful love has flooded with light the dead body of Jesus, has transfigured it, has made it pass into eternal life.  Jesus did not return to his former life, to earthly life, but entered into the glorious life of God and he entered there with our humanity, opening us to a future of hope.

This is what Easter is: it is the exodus, the passage of human beings from slavery to sin and evil to the freedom of love and goodness.  Because God is life, life alone, and we are his glory: the living man (cf. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, 4,20,5-7).

Dear brothers and sisters, Christ died and rose once for all, and for everyone, but the power of the Resurrection, this passover from slavery to evil to the freedom of goodness, must be accomplished in every age, in our concrete existence, in our everyday lives. How many deserts, even today, do human beings need to cross! 

Above all, the desert within, when we have no love for God or neighbour, when we fail to realize that we are guardians of all that the Creator has given us and continues to give us.  God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14).

So this is the invitation which I address to everyone: Let us accept the grace of Christ’s Resurrection!  Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.

And so we ask the risen Jesus, who turns death into life, to change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace.  Yes, Christ is our peace, and through him we implore peace for all the world.

Peace for the Middle East, and particularly between Israelis and Palestinians, who struggle to find the road of agreement, that they may willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long.  

Peace in Iraq, that every act of violence may end, and above all for dear Syria, for its people torn by conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort.  How much blood has been shed!  And how much suffering must there still be before a political solution to the crisis will be found?

Peace for Africa, still the scene of violent conflicts.  In Mali, may unity and stability be restored; in Nigeria, where attacks sadly continue, gravely threatening the lives of many innocent people, and where great numbers of persons, including children, are held hostage by terrorist groups.  Peace in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in the Central African Republic, where many have been forced to leave their homes and continue to live in fear.

Peace in Asia, above all on the Korean peninsula: may disagreements be overcome and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow.

Peace in the whole world, still divided by greed looking for easy gain, wounded by the selfishness which threatens human life and the family, selfishness that continues in human trafficking, the most extensive form of slavery in this twenty-first century; human trafficking is the most extensive form of slavery in this twenty-first century!  

Peace to the whole world, torn apart by violence linked to drug trafficking and by the iniquitous exploitation of natural resources! Peace to this our Earth!  Made the risen Jesus bring comfort to the victims of natural disasters and make us responsible guardians of creation.

Dear brothers and sisters, to all of you who are listening to me, from Rome and from all over of the world, I address the invitation of the Psalm: “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever.  Let Israel say: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever’” (Ps 117:1-2).

Dear Brothers and Sisters, to you who have come from all over the world to this Square at the heart of Christianity, and to you linked by modern technology, I repeat my greeting:  Happy Easter! 

Bear in your families and in your countries the message of joy, hope and peace which every year, on this day, is powerfully renewed. 

May the risen Lord, the conqueror of sin and death, be a support to you all, especially to the weakest and neediest.  

Thank you for your presence and for the witness of your faith.  

A thought and a special thank-you for the beautiful flowers, which come from the Netherlands.  

To all of you I affectionately say again: may the risen Christ guide all of you and the whole of humanity on the paths of justice, love and peace. 

Papal Easter Greetings

Irish Priest accused of sexual abuse pleads with Pope Francis not to be dismissed from Church

Pope Francis An elderly Irish cleric is appealing his dismissal from the priesthood directly to Pope Francis and to a top Vatican court. 

According to the Irish Independent the priest, known only by the pseudonyms 'Fr Ronat' and 'Fr B', faces being defrocked after a church canonical court upheld the abuse allegations lodged against him by former minors in the diocese of Cloyne. 

We here in CW can now disclose the identity of 'Fr Ronat' and 'Fr B' as being Fr Dan Duanne, Cecilstown, Mallow, Co Cork.

'Fr Ronat' was at the center of judicial enquiry known as the Cloyne Report which dealt with complaints against 19 priests made from 1996. 

A relative of the cleric told the Independent that an appeal has been lodged within the stipulated 15-day period. 

'We are very disappointed with the negative outcome. But there will be an appeal, particularly in respect of the fact we believe that a full defense against the allegations was not properly taken into account,' he said. 

The man stressed that 'Fr Ronat,' who vehemently denies the allegations, was deeply upset by the canonical court decision. 'Fr Ronat' now reportedly suffers from a number of health problems, and has never been convicted in a criminal court of any offense. 

But the canonical court, which is comprised of a notary and three priest-judges, has upheld the allegations made against the elderly priest to the church's moral standard. Their recent recommendation leaves the Irish priest facing 'dismissal from the clerical state.' 

But 'Fr Ronat' is now reportedly appealing their ruling to the Apostolic Signature and directly to Pope Francis, the two highest authorities on canon law within the Catholic Church. 

 Until a decision is made on his appeal, his proposed dismissal from the priesthood remains suspended. 

For over a decade 'Fr Ronat' has been forbidden by the church from saying Mass in public. 

He is also not allowed to wear priestly clothing in public. 

According to the Independent one of the complainants against him described the canonical court ruling as 'a total vindication' and welcomed his dismissal recommendation. 

'It is an enormous relief to finally have been believed after all these years,' she said. 

The canonical investigation was re-launched two years ago following the publication of the Cloyne Report into how the Cork diocese mishandled clerical child abuse allegations. 

Published in July 2011, the chapter involving 'Fr Ronat' was withheld from publication for a further six months for legal reasons. 

Immediately after the final chapter was published, the church signaled that it was resuming the suspended canonical trial.

'Fr Ronat' is reportedly the focus of 11 separate abuse complaints, the allegations against him formed the largest single chapter in the report.

Easter Message 2013 - Archbishop Richard Clarke“Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!”

The wonderful ancient greeting for Easter that the western liturgical traditions have retrieved from the Orthodox churches – which have maintained it over many centuries as a greeting not simply for inside the church building, but between neighbours and friends in the street – captures the immediacy of the Easter event. 

It is real and it is present, and it is for proclaiming boldly and confidently to all around us.

Part of what we surely need to recover as Christians in Ireland today is a confidence – a full–blooded confidence – that we actually want to allow Christ to run loose and dangerous in the world around us. 

We need to recover that spirited confidence to assert that Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, is not our private property as churchy people, but is truly for the whole of society and the entire world.
And let us also be in no doubt that the resurrection of Jesus Christ that we celebrate in these days, in the midst of all the post–modern incoherence and relativism that surrounds us, is emphatically neither a metaphor for positive thinking nor a symbol of wish–fulfillment. 

The event of Easter was, and is an event. 

But if we seek only to hold on grimly to the Christian Easter for ourselves – whether for our comfort or our satisfaction – we are in fact diminishing Christ in the eyes of the world. 

Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, does not need our timid protection; he asks for our courageous witness.

Easter Message 2013 - Bishop Alan Abernethy isn’t just the snow but my thoughts this year as I journey towards Easter have been firmly rooted in the ‘word becoming flesh.’

The events of Holy Week have their origin in the desire of a lovesick God to bring restoration and wholeness to creation. 

The journey on Palm Sunday on a donkey into Jerusalem was another example of a God who turns so much of the religious expectations on their head.

This kingdom Jesus declared and lived was one of love and grace not judgment and punishment. The cross is an amazing declaration of unending grace and hope.

The resurrection was the confirmation of this message and yet again God turned the world upside down by the miracle of an empty tomb.

However, this does not take away the pain and confusion of the mess of much of our lives, rather it speaks of hope and new beginnings.

There are so many people who still have to cope with some the awful reality of human suffering and distress and the Easter message needs to be incarnated by those of us who claim to believe, to help people not just hear the bells of Easter ring but experience the reality of God’s presence and hope in the chaos.

My prayer is that we will be inspired by Easter to be people who make real the amazing declaration of God’s love and hope we discover in Jesus.

May you know God’s blessing this Easter.


Easter Message 2013 - Archbishop Michael Jackson Day gives us one of the most joyous greetings for use at The Peace in our worship and throughout the Season of Easter: The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said, Peace be with you. Then were they glad when they saw The Lord. (John 20.19, 20)

Jesus, having departed, returns and is right in the middle of those who had come to depend on him, learn from him and cry for him. 

Many of them have slipped away out of fear but he greets them all joyfully and equally, without any recriminations or rejections, and he gives to them the greatest gift possible, the gift of peace. Their instinctive response is to be happy and to be glad. 

This is the gift which the risen Christ still gives to us every time we gather for worship in his name and particularly on Easter Day. The days of sorrow and of doubting are not washed away but the energy which went into them is given fresh direction. We see once again that the darkness is not triumphant over the light. Bereavement wounds and tears and it does so in particular, and indeed peculiar, ways every individual person who experiences it. 

In the Christian message of hope, death is destroyed by being put to death in Jesus Christ for those who seek and find the way of peace, the truth of love and the life of community. 

From fractured beginnings, the work of God in Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit still makes its way to the four corners of the earth in service, in mission and in response to human need and ecological responsibility. 

The people of Ireland have always found that peace is both precious and elusive. We have so 
often been on the verge of it and it has slipped between our fingers because we are perhaps too well known to one another, or too wedded to our exclusive histories to see that the compromise which is necessary brings with it the dividend of new life beyond caricature.

Christianity is at its most destructive where it luxuriates in internal division and this is the very opposite Christ–given peace. Christianity can no longer afford such luxuries. We are called by God to seek out and to embrace the dignity and the humanity of all or neighbours in the free flowing waters of refreshment and in the spirit of faith, hope and love.

I wish each and all of you a very Happy Easter!

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Easter Message 2013 - Cardinal Seán Brady“I ask again of Catholics – and of all people of goodwill across Ireland – to celebrate and cherish the gift of human life in all its stages from conception to its natural end 

Cardinal Brady 
Towards the end of his First Letter to the Corinthians Saint Paul states: “that Christ died for our sins, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3-4). 

This is the gospel in miniature version, short enough that it can even fit into a single Tweet! Yet in those twenty-three words, the story of Easter is perfectly captured. Christ died, he was buried and, on the first Easter Sunday, he was raised from the dead, as had been foretold in the Scriptures. This is the essence of our faith; we are an Easter people who believe that God sent his Son into the world that we might be saved.

The season of Lent is traditionally a time of fasting and abstinence in preparation for Easter. 

This year it was also a time of great excitement and I was privileged to be in Rome during the last days of the papacy of Pope Benedict, the Conclave and the beginning of the papacy of Pope Francis. These were, and continue to be, exciting days. I am reminded of this when I read the Gospel reading from John 20:1-9, which we read on Easter Sunday morning. When he hears the news that the tomb is empty, John takes off running, so excited is he that the worst may not be true; that the Lord might be alive!

That life is key to Easter and to the story of the resurrection. It is a story that brings life. Jesus has not succumbed to the power of death, but has been raised by God to a new life; and death has no power over him. We are called to imitate Jesus in his life, so that we may with him be raised to the fullness of life.  At this time I ask again of Catholics – and of all people of goodwill across Ireland – to celebrate and cherish the gift of human life in all its stages from conception to its natural end.

Pope Francis, in his first Homily as Pope, has spoken of the importance keeping Christ in the centre of our lives and following him on the way of the Cross. This will not always be easy, but it is our calling as Christians.

In his Homily at the inaugural Mass of Petrine Ministry, Pope Francis said: ‘Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!’

These inspiring words have been supported by actions, which have provided iconic images beamed across the world. The joyful embrace of the man with a disability whom Pope Francis embraced as he was held in the arms of his carer; the moving scenes of the Pope washing (and kissing) the feet of twelve young people in Casal del Marmo penal institute; the throngs of people who were greeted by the Pope after his first Sunday Mass celebrated in the Church of Saint Anna, are all reminiscent of scenes in the Gospels. The example given by Pope Francis presents a challenge to each of us, the same challenge presented by Jesus in Matthew chapter 25 to reach out in service to our sisters and brothers in need.

On that first Easter morning, Mary went to the tomb while it was still dark. Yet that darkness dissipated, and the light of hope and resurrection began to shine. Today, almost 2,000 years later, there are still moments of darkness in everyone’s life: families hit by recession struggling to make ends meet; tables with an empty chair, especially following the tragic loss of a loved one; families struggling with addiction; yet as Christians we cling to the hope born in the empty tomb. Darkness will not have the last word; the journey does not end at the Cross but begins again with the Resurrection. 

It is my prayer that the light of Christ enter the hearts and minds of all Irish people this Easter.

Pope plans to live in Vatican workers' residence

Pope Francis said last Tuesday morning he will stay at Saint Martha’s residence instead of moving to the Apostolic Palace, according to the Vatican press office.

“After the Mass ended, the Pope told those present that he intends to remain in the Casa Santa Marta and stay with the employees,” said the Holy See’s press office director, Father Federico Lombardi.

His comments came after a 7:00 a.m. Mass that he has been celebrating each day at the residence for Vatican staff who live in some of the rooms during the year.

Pope Francis has been staying at the residence instead of the papal apartment because of renovations that were taking place there. 

According to the Associated Press, those updates have been completed and the apartment is ready for the Pope to move in.

During the conclave, the year-round residents moved out for the cardinals to stay there. 

After the cardinals elected Pope Francis, they returned to their homes and the Pope moved into the residency’s papal suite, room 201.

He has invited street-sweepers, Vatican gardeners, the residency’s staff and the Vatican newspaper’s staff to take part in the daily Mass.

The seals of the papal apartment have been removed, but the Argentinian Pope will remain in St. Martha's residence for the time being.

Fr. Lombardi did not say if the Pope will move out in the future.

When he was in Buenos Aires, Pope Francis lived in a small apartment, instead of the grand archbishop’s residence.

For years, he cooked his own meals and traveled on public transport around the city.

Holy Hell - one family's story of sexual abuse by their priest Feenan is a warm and generous woman, a loving mother telling an unimaginably terrible story of the sexual abuse of her son, Daniel, by a Catholic priest trusted by the family. 

The details are graphic, shocking and are revealed in her book about her son and her family's experience.

Patricia says she thought long and hard about writing the book, Holy Hell, but felt there was a need to tell the story. 

"I was encouraged by interested people to tell it and see what I could make of it, of explaining the impact on a family of clergy sexual abuse. In initially wrote it to try to get it out of my head after my son went through a criminal trial in 2004. I could write it, put it on a shelf and it would be there as a record for the family."

"But I became very aware that the church was still facing allegations from victims of other priests and there were allegations over cover-ups. I was very upset that things didn't seem to be getting better so I made the decision to publish - with Daniel's blessing."

"I would never do anything without his approval, or the approval of his brothers, so I consulted Daniel a fair bit while writing it and he felt it was a good thing to do. As I was due to publish, Daniel assured me that there would be nothing in the book that hadn't already been on the front page of the local newspaper through the trial but in those news reports there was no evidence of the impact on the family or the impact on him and his life."

Some of the incidents of what Daniel was subjected by the family's priest are graphically detailed in the book.

"We'd faced such a lot of opposition, gossip and innuendo that I guess I wanted to be able to read and maybe experience the pain that we went through and that it might help other victims in the future."

Patricia Feenan says that one of the problems with the media coverage was that there no reporting of the 'culture of grooming' and that discussing it, educating people about it means they're more aware but also hopefully more likely to tell someone and to seek help.

"The reaction I've had from many people, and many victims who are positive and thankful, means I know I've helped people. One man wrote that he'd never disclosed his abuse but he read the book and gave it to his mother, telling her 'This is what happened to me.'

Sadly, Patricia fears that sexual abuse by the clergy continues, and will continue.

"We hear that it's historical, and I'll concede that the church is trying very hard now with protocols put in place to deal with victims who come forward now, but when they say it's historical, that's true the offence was historical, but the impact is with us every day, and it's certainly with my son every day of his life. If people understand that more, maybe they can walk some of the journey. Emotional support is what victims want, not ostracisization."

I'm amazed that for so long the priests had so much power

Daniel was 24 before he told his mother of the sexual abuse that had happened to him. Having been raised in a traditional Catholic family Pat says the church was such a big part of their lives. 

"We tried to live our faith. In embracing that, we had our four sons with us, they were all altar servers and my husband eventually worked for the church in this Newcastle/Maitland Catholic diocese. I was a special minister, I cleaned the church, I read on Sundays, I visited sick people with communion so it was an enormous part of our lives."

"We tried to do more than just attend Mass on Sundays. We tried to bring faith into our lives and the bitterness is that in doing that we had many priests through our home and exposed our children to a paedophile."

Has Patricia's faith been destroyed by her family's experience? Are paedophile priests separate to her faith?

"I think my inner faith is fine, the same as it's always been, but I don't need to be guided by a priest now about what I believe and what I can and can't do."

"I'm amazed that for so long the priests had so much power. It's traditional, it's from Ireland, it's just the way they were. They held positions of power and advised people on all manner of things that had nothing to do with the faith."

Patricia Feenan has now cut out the 'mere mortal middle man' from her relationship with Catholicism.

"I think I have, I still try and be a good person but I don't attend church anymore. I don't attend Mass. That's very sad, I'm very lonely for the good part of what I had but I'm not lonely for the trimmings."

Can she still trust priests?

"I can trust individual priests, I know good priests. I guess you never know but I guess I have an inner sense in those priests that have supported me. I think now I'm looking for their honesty and transparency. We were just blind. We had blind faith before."

"The priest was the priest and he was almost akin to God when I was growing up and this is what has created part of the problem in the Catholic church. But now I treat priests as equal and can have more in depth conversations with them. I don't associate with many, just a couple, but they know who they are and I trust them."

Patricia Feenan hopes that a new Pope can embrace the changes that we all face in society. 

"I hope he can be kind and compassionate and get people to trust again. I don't know how he's going to do that. There are so many people who are upset with the Catholic church so he needs to give a clearer message that people can relate to in 2013."

"Jesus was a simple fisherman. His message was to love one another as I have loved you and do unto others as you would have them do unto you'. I don't know where the trimmings and the might and power came from. Perhaps fear. Keeping people ignorant of what is really happening means the power isn't diluted."

"People are in the dark about the inner workings of the Vatican and the hierarchy right down to bishops in parishes all over the world, the flock weren't allowed to know things. We were kept in the dark."

Betrayed is the obvious word that comes to mind when speaking with Patricia about her feelings about the Catholic church now.

"I have reflections of Mum and Dad and how much they supported the Church. They were good Catholic people, certainly not wealthy in any way but gave so much of their time, and money into the(collection) plate on Sundays and going through the indignity of having how much they gave read out."

"Even as a small child I can remember Mum and Dad trying to give as much as they could because of the embarrassment when the priest would read from the altar the Easter Dues as they were called, or the Christmas Dues, and when I think about that now I can't believe that was done. Nobody objected, it's just the sort of thing that was done. But that's not Catholic faith!"

Patricia speaks of her son Daniel with warmth and love, but visible anguish.

"Daniel is well and happy, he has three lovely children. But he walks with the pain every day of his life. His journey has been hard. Because there is so much publicity at the moment that coincided with the release of my book, the Royal Commission and the Special Commission of Inquiry - there aren't many media outlets that aren't talking about it sometime through the day. I guess they're triggers for him but he came to my book launch and he spoke. He's proud of what I've done and he said he feels that so many people have hugged him and said 'well done' that I think he does feel affirmed and vindicated."

"People that never had a chance to say to Dan 'well done' or 'we're proud of you', former teachers, and people who had the chance to say they were sorry that they didn't know. He had that, too, when he came home for the book launch. People that he'd worked with over the years."

We were no match for a clever paedophile priest

A huge part of the problem surrounding any sexual abuse, but particularly sexual abuse of children, is victims often don't tell anyone. We encourage our children now more than ever to tell us things.

"We do in 2013 and certainly we always said to the boys, "Nothing that can happen to you is too awful that you can't tell us," but I guess we were no match for a clever paedophile priest who had the other argument that, "No-one will believe you. I'm the priest. Bad things will happen if you tell anyone." It's disappointing for us as parents that he wasn't able to tell us but there are a lot of parents in our position who are thinking the same thing."

"It's pretty upsetting that 'paedophile power' is stronger in some ways that 'parent power'. We hoped that our children would tell us but it didn't happen. We were very hands-on parents, we embarrassed the boys often by ringing to see if there would be, for example, alcohol at a party. We were right over the top and the boys told us that."

"But we didn't think of the priest. We were very Catholic. He was right under our noses and we didn't even give him a thought."

"As the years went by we realised Daniel was very unsettled but we looked for other influences. But it's out there now and parents do talk to their children about abuse."

How do 'Nanny Pat' and Daniel ensure that her grandchildren, Daniel's children, will understand body safety and abuse without scaring them?

"I think parents are having those conversations with their kids and we do it at school, too. I'm a teacher and in our child protection we talk about kids feeling uncomfortable and who you can tell if something happens that makes you feel uncomfortable. Years ago we taught 'stranger danger' but that isn't it at all - most abuse happens by someone connected to the family by somebody the kids already know. That's why they trust them."

"Kids understand lots these days and they're very resilient. You can say to a child there are good people in the world, and bad people, and they'll accept that. You can talk to them about feeling uncomfortable, that if anyone wants to have a secret with you it's not appropriate. You don't have secrets with other people unless it's about a present for your grandmother or mum or dad!"

Suffer the little children, indeed.

Did Pope Benedict 'do a Bishop Hegarty'?

The inauguration of Pope Francis brought a refreshing air of optimism to a Catholic Church that lay moribund in recent decades.
Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI should, perhaps, be credited with remarkable prescience: his resignation now seems like a remarkable act of sacrifice by a selfless pope in the best interests of the Church.

And yet, there is something not quite right about this picture of Benedict.

His resignation was not just a break with papal tradition; it is at odds with everything that he practised. Benedict was remarkably unwilling to allow anyone to resign – even when that would have been for the good of the Church.

One could almost feel sorry for Cardinal Sean Brady in Armagh. Almost three years ago, when revelations in relation to preventing further children being abused were questioned, he asked to retire.

The fact that he remains in office is one of the reasons many Irish people have left the Catholic Church. 

And yet, though Brady has shown signs of ill-health, Benedict refused to let him resign. 

Indeed, since March 2010, when he accepted the resignation of Bishop John Magee of Cloyne, Benedict has refused to accept the resignation of any bishop, or cardinal, for covering up child sexual abuse.

In December 2009, a report on the Dublin diocese forced four bishops to tender their resignation. The pope initially accepted two of these resignations, but then waited until August 2010 before refusing to accept the other two.

Cardinal Brady asked for a co-adjutant bishop in May 2010, but this was not granted until January 2013. In 2012, two years after Bishop Walter Mixa of Augsburg resigned for financial improprieties and for hitting children, the pope appointed him to the council for health and pastoral care.

The most prominent bishops to resign for reasons other than ill-health, or age, were Bishop Morris in Australia, because of doctrinal disagreements, Bishop Guallo, for cavorting with a woman on a beach, and Cardinal Keith O'Brien, for inappropriate sexual behaviour with priests.

Meanwhile, bishops and cardinals accused of the cover-up of the sexual abuse of children remain in office. The case of Seamus Hegarty, Emeritus Bishop of Derry, shines a revealing light on Pope Benedict XVI's resignation. 

Bishop Hegarty announced, on November 7, 2011, that he was no longer able to fulfil the role of Diocesan Bishop due to "my medical condition". Pope Benedict XVI accepted his resignation on November 23, 2011. 

However, his condition could not have deteriorated so rapidly that he was unable to face the public to answer questions about his role in covering up the rapes of children by his subordinates.

In 1982, the then Fr Seamus Hegarty became Bishop of Raphoe, Co Donegal. In 1994, he moved to the neighbouring diocese of Derry. 

Hegarty's reputation will be forever tarnished by his role in the Fr Eugene Greene scandal. 

Greene was jailed for the rape of 26 boys. 

Throughout his career, Greene had been moved from Nigeria to Scotland to Cork and finally to his home county, Donegal. 

There, Bishop Hegarty and his predecessor shunted him from parish to parish each time new allegations arose. 

Hegarty maintained that he knew nothing about Greene's misdeeds until his arrest. 

But, in 1976, Greene had been sent to a centre for the rehabilitation of priests, ostensibly for alcoholism, but in reality for sexual misdeeds.

Hegarty, when pressed by a journalist, maintained: "Oh, that affair was handled very professionally..." 

This comment, it strikes me, was revealing: if, as he claimed, he knew nothing about Greene's tendencies until 1998, there was surely no affair to handle – professionally, or otherwise? 

In 1992, a priest in Raphoe was accused of sexually assaulting a teenager and was transferred to another parish by Bishop Daly. 

When a second allegation was made in 1999, he appointed the priest to a role counselling victims of abuse.

These details did not emerge until 2005, when it was revealed that a payment of £20,000 was made to one of the priest's victims. In March 2010, Hegarty was again criticised for covering up the rape of a girl by Fr John McCullagh.

Pressure grew to investigate events in Raphoe. 

The Dublin government claimed the Church should first be allowed to be complete its audit, with each bishop granted a veto over publication.

Publication was delayed until 2011, just after the resignation of Bishop Hegarty was accepted by Pope Benedict XVI. 

The report proved disappointing for anyone interested in truth, devoting just a few paragraphs to historical cases of abuse. Although it criticised bishops for past errors of judgment, it provided no details.

Hegarty issued a statement, acknowledging "deficits in the management of allegations historically, including during my time as bishop". The diocesan administrator of Derry, however, said that Hegarty would not be able to answer questions as a result of health concerns. 

Hegarty's illness was, however, not sufficiently serious to prevent him from appearing in public, expressing contrition, or providing details of his role. 

In his pastoral letter to the people of Ireland, Pope Benedict XVI wrote: "God's justice summons us to give an account of our actions and to conceal nothing." 

The continued silence of Bishop Hegarty flouts this call.

Recently, it has been claimed that Benedict helped protect a priest who abused more than 200 boys in a school for the deaf in Milwaukee. 

One victim stated: "The pope knew about this. He should be held accountable."

Now that Benedict is closeted in a cloister, the people of Donegal and Derry wonder, 'Did he do a Hegarty?' 

Only time will tell.

Christian example of Pope Francis provides a contrast with the graceless

Pope Francis kisses 8-month-old Victoria Maria Marino from Sicily after delivering his blessing to the palms and to the faithful in St Peter's Square during Palm Sunday Mass last Sunday. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images Those who have difficulty with miracles may be feeling challenged after the past six weeks. 

It now seems it is the probable that takes a little longer, not the impossible.

The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI was, well, unbelievable, even “bizarre, unprecedented”. 

But who would ever have believed his successor could be a Francis “from the ends of the Earth”? A Jesuit, an also-ran from the 2005 conclave, 76 years old, 50-1 at Paddy Power ?

You could understand the confusion of the Italian bishops’ conference. 

Two hours after Francis was elected it issued a statement congratulating the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, Angelo Scola, on becoming pope. An epic mistake.

It arose, it seems, because the Italians had prepared messages of congratulation for about nine men-most-likely-to. The person responsible pressed the wrong button.

The word in Rome is that Francis secured 90 votes on the conclave’s fifth vote, with Cardinal Scola and the former Archbishop of Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet runners-up. 

Pope Francis is, of course, a Catholic, as the usual graceless ones here in Ireland rushed to point out with such stretched wit so the rest of us would know he concurred with their line on abortion, same-sex marriage, contraception – teachings that owe more to Greek philosophy than to anything Jesus said. He never addressed any of those topics.

The poorest of the poor

No, the great surprise about Francis is that he is so Christian. 

He walks the walk. 

So many prelates are content to just talk the talk. 

He eschewed the trappings of his office to live frugally in Buenos Aires while committed to and spending much of his time among the poorest of the poor in the city’s slums. 

Our graceless ones have never shown much concern for the poor or issues of social justice. 

They prefer the arid don’ts of dogma, as they interpret it, to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving drink to the thirsty. 

The pope promises to remind such narrow types there is more to Christianity than the letter of the law and while people may not live by bread alone they must have bread to live. 

His demeanour promises reorientation of a church that has lost its way, starting with reform at the top.

But issues of governance are of secondary matters for most Catholics. 

What inspires them is Francis’s simplicity, his ordinary crucifix, the black shoes, that he pays his bills personally, his humour, the spontaneous asides.

Above all, his plea – “How I wish for a church that is poor and for the poor!” – has found deep resonance in Catholic pews all over the world. 

He said it at that remarkable first audience on March 16th when he met the world’s media. 

But what most moved many at that encounter were his final words. They indicated a return to a church that no longer saw itself as the preserve of a self-styled pure elite but could again be home to the great hotch-potch of humanity, as under Pope John XXIII.

Pope Francis told the gathering: “Many of you don’t belong to the Catholic Church, others are not believers. From my heart I impart this blessing, in silence, to each of you, respecting the conscience of each one but knowing that each of you is a child of God: May God bless you.” 

True respect for conscience appears to have made a return in the Catholic Church. 

Francis’s words were followed through last Tuesday when US vice-president Joe Biden and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi received Communion at the Mass to celebrate his inauguration, despite their pro-choice positions on abortion.

“Tús maith leath na h-oibre,” as the old Irish saying goes: a good start is half the work. 

Pope Francis has had a good start.