That was the context of the past, Dr Trevor Morrow went on, but the context has changed, changed quite radically.
The first factor is political - and Dr Morrow said he was mentioning this because of its implications for the mission of God throughout the entire island. What we have seen over this decade is breathtaking. Who could have imagined that we would have seen a cessation of violence, and that we would have in Stormont representatives of the DUP and Sinn Féin in an Executive.
Do you remember those memorable moments in Croke Park where the English and Irish rugby teams were playing? Croke Park which is of course the home of the Gaelic Athletic Association. There was fear as to the response of the Irish supporters to the arrival of the English team and to the singing of the British National Anthem. In fact it was greeted with respect in silence. Martin McAleese, the husband of the President, said to me on one occasion that it's the only moment he saw Mary weeping publicly was the singing of the British National Anthem.
And what of the coming of the Queen? I know it was perfectly choreographed when she appeared wearing green as she arrived off the plane. And when she arrived in the Garden of Remembrance with her wreath and with such respect bowed her head - folks these are amazing moments with its implications not just for the peace of the island but for the mission of GOD.
We have been affected politically and economically. It is only a few years ago that the Republic of Ireland was the fastest-growing economy in Europe. We had more helicopters per head of population in the Irish Republic than anywhere else on the PLANET! Now we are completely bankrupt - and the root cause is moral and spiritual. A cartel of property developers, bankers and politicians, engaged in greed and corruption, have brought the Republic to its knees.
And what of the context religiously? Vincent Twomey, who is a Conservative Catholic priest and theologian, has written a fascinating book called The End of Catholic Ireland. This is what he says -
It is a measure of the cultural sea-change in Ireland that, whereas half a century ago, to call oneself an Irish Catholic was a badge of honour. Today, in the upwardly-mobile South of the Border it is to be more often reluctantly admitted. The scandal of child abuse, and how the Catholic Church has handled it, has simply scarred the minds of devout people. You are aware that this outrage reached its peak with the Cloynes Report, where it was obvious that, through deliberate concealment and lying, the perpetrators of these crimes had been protected from the State and its judicial process.
The Cloynes revelations are heartbreaking. It describes how victims continued to live in the small towns and parishes in which they were reared and in which they were abused. The abusers often continued to live in the area and were still held in high regard by their families and the community. These abusers continued to officiate at family weddings and funerals and, in one instance, the abuser officiated at the victim's own wedding.
No wonder it caused Enda Kenny, the Irish Taoiseach or Prime Minister, in an unprecedented outburst to say;
This Report exposes an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic Republic as little as three years ago. And in doing so, the Report exposes the disfunction, disconnection, elitism and the narcissism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day. The rape and torture of children were downplayed or managed to uphold instead he primacy of the Catholic institution, its power, standing and reputation. Far from listening to evidence of humiliation and betrayal with St Benedict's "ear of the heart", the Vatican's reaction was to parse and analyse it with the gimlet eye of a Canon Lawyer.
These are unprecedented days. The result of which was that the Papal Nuncio was summoned back to the Vatican. We are, in the context of mission, in a totally different context.
And socially. We are seeing a new definition of Irishness. People are becoming Irish citizens from all over the world. My own congregation has something like 23-25 different nationalities. From every continent except the Antarctic they have come to Lucan. Penguins have not yet appeared!
Most of them have become Irish citizens, so there is a new perception of what constitutes "Irishness". It is in this sphere that we are engaged in mission. And, culturally, highly-educated European Irish men and women are open - they may be confused, relatavistic and post-modern. But, whatever the weaknesses of the Catholic education system, it has given them a profound sense of GOD-consciousness, far greater than anything you will discover in the North of Ireland.
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