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Archbishop tells annual Trócaire lecture that the public can be a force for positive change
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin delivered the annual Trócaire lecture in St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth last night (12 March) and told a packed Renehan Hall that organisations such as Trócaire have a vital positive role to play in influencing public opinion.
Before starting his lecture entitled ‘At the service of Justice and Peace’, the Archbishop reflected on the tragic loss of life in the recent Ethiopian air crash. He said it was a flight used by many aid workers in east Africa.
The Archbishop’s address was wide-ranging and based on his years of experience as a leading figure in the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. During this time he represented the Holy See at major UN conferences and interacted with the World Bank and IMF on international debt and poverty reduction.
The Archbishop said that the social teaching of the Church must understand reality. ‘The Gospel message must become a challenge to people of goodwill to respond to the ongoing challenges of a complex world. The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace was one of the most interesting offices of the Church. It is very much involved with getting out on the ground to see the problems facing people.’ The Bishop recalled travelling extensively to stay with local clergy sometimes in situations of serious conflict.
The Bishop said that progress has been made in many parts of the developing world but unfortunately this progress is often unequal for a country’s citizens. ‘The poor may be becoming less poor in many parts of the world but inequality is rising.’ He quoted Pope Benedict who said that ‘globalisation will be worthy of it’s name when it enhances the unity of the human family. Any form of globalisation that breeds exclusion or marginalisation, instability or crass inequality, doesn’t have the right to call itself global’.
Archbishop Martin said that the possibility of an arms race similar to that during the Cold War is becoming a real one. ‘The trade in heavy weapons has been steadily increasing. Arms sales from the US have increased by 25% over the last ten years. Saudi Arabia has increased arms imports by 190% over the last 10 years’. The Archbishop wondered if, in this situation, a moral argument could hold sway over political interests.
How can ordinary citizens influence the challenge of attaining a sustained peace? The rise of international public opinion should not be underestimated the Archbishop said. Public opinion can change political policies, the Archbishop said, and organisations such as Trócaire have a vital role to play in influencing public opinion in a positive way on both the national and international stage.
Archbishop Martin concluded: ‘Migration should be an intrinsic dimension of a global economy and society. Migration enriches culture and society. Migration is about people who search for their dreams but it is also about those who have nothing. How we treat refugees is a barometer of our own humanity’.
The event also included a very special ceremony for two of Trócaire’s former directors in recognition of their work over many years. Archbishop Martin conferred Justin Kilcullen, director from 1993-2013, with a Papal Knighthood of the Order of St. Gregory the Great. Eamonn Meehan, director from 2013-2018, was conferred with an honorary Doctorate in Theology by the Pontifical University at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth.