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Homily of Bishop William Crean – St. Patrick’s Day 17th March 2024

St. Patrick’s Day

St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh

17th March 2024

“Ireland – Our Common Home”

My friends,

If you look at a map of Europe on the world from 100 year ago, you’ll find that many countries had different borders then than they have now. So often the changes were agreed after a time of war and conflict. Then as now wars are waged to secure land, a land that can be called home. And from this sense of homeland, we derive a sense of identity, culture and language which is reflected in our flags and emblems.

Current conflicts in the Ukraine and Russia, Israel and Gaza, and others in the Horn of Africa bear witness to the importance of land and identity to all people.

We ourselves here in Ireland have had and continue to have our own tensions ‘round land and identity. For a long time that tension and conflict was played out mostly in the North of the country. Now with immense cultural shifts taking place by way of immigration – we’re experiencing new challenges by way of land and identity. We should not be surprised by some changes as the census indicates that at least 16% of our population are immigrants to Ireland.

What you might think has this to do with our celebration of St. Patrick? A great deal I suggest. The fact that he was a forced immigrant sets a tone for our reflection on our current experience.

Patrick, though an immigrant slave would prove to be an extraordinary gift as a person because the faith he carried in his heart sowed the seeds of Christian faith and living in our history, culture and language that continues to enrich our lives 17 centuries on. How we accept and use that gift in our time is our responsibility not Patrick’s!

His Confessio reads still like a modern document “Although I am imperfect in many ways I want my brothers, sisters and relatives to know what kind of man I am, so that they may perceive the aspiration of my life”.

Right now, there is emerging the seeds of resentment in some toward immigrants. It seems to be driven by a reactionary political philosophy that seeks to isolate and even alienate one nation from another. Migration is now one of the most problematic features of the world to-day. Whole nations trapped in poverty have become like pressure cookers – migrants are risking their very lives for the chance of a better life. Pope Francis has been severely criticized for his focus on the plight of migrants. He draws attention to their desperation – reminding us that many are like the poor man at the feet of the rich man Lazarus begging for the crumbs from his table.

This country has a long history of emigration -it’s still occurring – equally a long history of immigration – Viking, Noman and the various Plantations have shaped us as a people. Somehow despite the many trials and challenges we faced our humanity and essential goodness as a people has shone through.

This generation faces a new challenge of integration of immigrants in our midst. Closing our hearts and minds is not a solution. This part of earth is our home – where we are rooted and in which we find identity. But it’s also part of the common home of one another regardless of race or nationality – we cannot afford to be naïve – yet the alternative to integration is exclusion and apartheid.

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