“Any form of xenophobia is opposed to Christianity”, the Irish Bishops have cried.

Driving the news

“Christians, in their language and actions, are asked to lead by example and to welcome the stranger”, the Bishops recalled in a statement at the conclusion of their Winter 2019 General Meeting in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth.

In that meeting, the bishops expressed their “concern” at “the use of intolerant language in public and political discourse as well as the growing hostility towards migrants and refugees coming to Ireland”.

They said it is society’s responsibility “to welcome with open arms those who arrive here fleeing from war, persecution, starvation, and other forms of destitution”.

But they warned that the examples of Christians will hardly be enough.

“Ultimately, racism will not be eradicated without changing peoples’ hearts and forming new attitudes”, the bishops warned.

Go deeper

In the context of welcoming refugees, the Irish prelates said they heard a report from Bishop of Ferns Denis Brennan, who attended a November 26-28 conference in Athens on the pastoral care of migrants.

The choice of the Greek capital for the conference organised by the Migrations Section of the Commission for Pastoral and Social Care of bishops’ conferences of Europe (CCEE) was “appropriate”, the Irish bishops said.

That was because “Greece has been in the frontline of migration having received 1.5 million migrants and refugees from Armenia, Albania, Syria, Turkey and a number of African countries in recent years”.

At the CCEE conference, too, “Europe was criticised for its lack of solidarity, leaving the countries of the Mediterranean basin to bear the brunt of the demands of the refugee crisis”, the Irish bishops admitted.

On his personal experience with refugees in Greece, Bishop Brennan told The Irish Catholic that “these people are fleeing from really desperate situation, life threatening situations”.

“The Holy Father always asks people in the destination countries, the receiving countries, to be as generous as they can and I think that’s the best way of putting it”, the bishop explained.

“I think when we ask people to be as generous as they can and understand the need, I think people will respond”.

Why it matters

On the subject of Ireland’s growing homelessness, the bishops deplored at their meeting in Maynooth the fact that the “fear of losing home, or actually losing it, is devastating to the individual and for societal wellbeing”.

The housing crisis in the country is such that the number of homeless people has just climbed to over 10,500 for the first time in recorded history, according to Department of Housing figures released December 3.

In the light of the emergency, the Irish bishops called politicians to the consideration “of the possibility of an alternative ordering of society where all have the right to secure a home life”.

In that context, the prelates recommended an Irish Inter-Church Committee initiative called ‘In six months a lot can change’, which the Catholic bishops said they hoped would “spur society into action, by giving hope that our voices and interactions, however small, can change narratives and bring about changes”.

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Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.