Bishops alarmed at rush to remove rights of the most vulnerable
With the thousands of others who have voiced their concern in recent days, we wish to express our alarm at the unprecedented way in which the Westminster Parliament has used the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill to rush through legislation which will have a devastating impact on the right to life of unborn children.
The equal right to life, and love, of a mother and her unborn child is so fundamental to the common good of every society that citizens deserve the fullest participation in the democratic debate about the legislation which governs it. This also applies to decisions regarding the nature of marriage. What is happening in Westminster during these days recklessly undermines this fundamental right of citizens and the principle of devolution at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement. It should be a matter of grave alarm for every citizen in Northern Ireland and all who cherish the right to life as the most fundamental of all human rights.
We appeal to the Prime Minister and Westminster Government to move to overturn this hijacking of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill for purposes for which it was never intended and to uphold the right of citizens in Northern Ireland, under the Good Friday Agreement, to decide these matters for themselves. We appeal to all citizens in Northern Ireland, to give expression to their commitment to the care of every mother and unborn child by asking their political representatives to ensure the equal right to life is upheld in our devolved legislation.
Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Dromore
Bishop Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor
Bishop Donal McKeown, Bishop of Derry
Bishop Larry Duffy, Bishop of Clogher
Pastoral Message of Archbishop Eamon Martin
-Annual Day of Prayer for Vocations-
Sunday, 12 May 2019 – Fourth Sunday of Easter
Pope Francis likes to remind young people that they are not just the future of the world and the Church, but they are very much its present – “You are the ‘now’ of God!” he tells them in his apostolic exhortation published in April, Christus Vivit (Christ is Alive).
It is beautiful to look at a young person today and see in them already the qualities of a future father, mother, husband, wife, priest or consecrated person.
The Gospel Acclamation for today, the Day of Prayer for Vocations, reminds us that Jesus is the Good Shepherd: “I am the good shepherd, says the Lord; I know my own sheep and my own know me (Jn. 10:14)”.
The Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd, knows our young people personally. He knows their strengths and weaknesses their joys and their fears, their worries and their hopes and dreams. He continues to call them to serve Him in many ways. Sometimes it is difficult for them to hear the Lord’s call among so many other competing voices.
The Lord has not stopped calling some young people to serve Him in the priesthood – in fact, as Pope Francis writes, “he doubles the stakes, for he never ceases to care for his beloved church” (CV275).
For many years the families and parishes of Ireland provided large numbers of priests for both home and for the missions overseas. We are blessed in the Archdiocese of Armagh to have twenty-one young men preparing in Dundalk, Maynooth and Rome to serve as priests in our diocese. Most of these are coming to us from abroad. However I am still very keen to encourage and nurture vocations to the priesthood from among our own young people, many of whom have strong faith and great gifts to offer our Church. How might this be done?
In Christus Vivit, Pope Francis cautions against “pre-packaged answers and ready-made solutions” without appreciating the emergence of “new sensitivities and…new questions” (CV65).
In that spirit, I am inviting all people in the diocese to prayerfully reflect in the coming weeks on two questions that will help us plan for more vocations to the priesthood in our diocese:
1. What is the most important role that the priests of tomorrow will play in our diocese?
2. What qualities will the priests of tomorrow need to have for our diocese?
Please consider these questions – at home around the kitchen table, or in school, or out with friends, or during your coffee and lunch breaks at work. Share your thoughts with me and with our Diocesan Vocations Commission. You can send your responses via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or via post to Diocesan Vocations Commission, Ara Coeli, Cathedral Road, Armagh BT61 7QY. Responses can be returned by June 30th 2019.
All of us share in the responsibility of nurturing future vocations, and of supporting our young people to “discern pathways where others only see walls, to recognise potential where others only see peril” (CV67).
Thank you for considering this message and please pray with me for vocations to the priesthood and the religious life, and to generous Christian service in marriage and the single life:
O Jesus, send labourers into your fields which are awaiting holy apostles, saintly priests, heroic missionaries and dedicated sisters and brothers.
Enkindle in the hearts of men and women the spark of a vocation.
Grant that Christian families may desire to give your Church helpers in the work of tomorrow.
(Prayer for Vocations, St. Joseph Young Priests’ Society)