The leader of the Irish Catholic Church has warned the ongoing lack of a Northern Ireland Assembly, “increasing sectarianism” and the shadow of Brexit mean “a period of dangerous political, social and economic uncertainty” for the UK and Ireland.

Driving the news

Primate of All Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin was speaking Thursday at the Kennedy Summer School in New Ross, County Wexford, on the topic: ‘What is the role of faith in our politics?’

In his talk, Martin affirmed that bringing faith to politics is “not an optional extra for a committed Christian”.

“We are called to be ‘faith–full’ citizens, bearing witness in the public sphere, to scrutinise ‘the signs of the times’, listening all the while to our informed conscience – which is the voice of God speaking in our hearts – willing us towards the good, and warning us against evil”, the archbishop said.


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Go deeper

But it’s not just the Northern Ireland political impasse, ongoing Catholic-Protestant tensions or the imminent departure of the UK from the European Union that worry Martin.

He said Christians could not help but to “cry out”, too, “at the extent of homelessness, poverty, addictions and violence, criminality and corruption on the streets of Ireland”.

“It moves us to weep that so many of our young people resort to self-harm and taking their own lives”, Martin lamented.

“We cannot ignore the plight of the refugee and those who are hungry, persecuted, trafficked and exploited in our world.

“We rightly feel ashamed and repulsed by the horrific revelations of child abuse and other shameful episodes where the reputation of the Church was put before the compassionate call of the Gospel to protect the vulnerable and reach out to the marginalised”, the archbishop admitted.

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Why it matters

In the face of these problems, Martin said faith confronts Christians “to examine our own lives and attitudes”.

“Amidst a world of unbridled consumption and the maximisation of profit, faith challenges us towards a more ‘responsible simplicity of life'”, said the archbishop, quoting Pope Francis.

“Hearing the ‘cry of the poor’ and the ‘cry of the earth’, it moves our hearts to want to do something to protect the very future of our planet, our common home.  Faith allows us to see more clearly that all these issues are connected”, he added.

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What’s next

Martin also alluded in his talk to Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s repeated calls to build a new relationship between the Irish Church and State.

“The Church and the political community, whilst autonomous and independent of each other, would do well in these troubled times to dialogue and cooperate in the service of Ireland and the protection of humanity”, the archbishop said in that regard.

“In recent weeks people have spoken to me of politics descending into a dangerous factionalism and of a weakening of confidence in the integrity of parliamentary democracy.

“It is vitally important that Church, civic society and government work together to preserve the fundamental concern for the common good”, Martin added. 

“In an Ireland where rising individualism is often accompanied by growing disaffection and disillusionment with the leadership provided by both Church leaders and public representatives, – faith and politics need each other”, the archbishop affirmed.

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