'Not simply an American phenomenon' - Irish Bishops call on citizens to 'examine our own consciences' on racism

“Not simply an American phenomenon”: Irish Bishops call on citizens to “examine our own consciences” on racism

The Irish Bishops are calling on citizens to “examine our own consciences” on racism, saying that the discrimination and oppression of minorities “is not just an American phenomenon”.

– “Many people of colour, including Irish citizens, report racist rejection and discrimination”

The Irish prelates made the appeal in a statement June 12 after their online Summer 2020 meeting: their first plenary, they said, to be held over the internet as a consequence of the ongoing public health restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Noting that their plenary was held in the context of ongoing Black Lives Matter protests in the US and all over the world, the Irish Bishops warned that “racism can take many forms, covert and overt, and we in Ireland need to examine our own consciences”.

While “Irish society, including our Church communities, benefits from the gifts of many people of different racial origins who contribute to our life and to the quality of life in manifold ways”, the Bishops lamented that “at the same time, many people of colour, including Irish citizens, report experiences of racist rejection and discrimination”.

“Racist attitudes are learned early in life. They can and must be countered in homes and in school communities where the fundamental dignity of every person is celebrated”, the Irish prelates implored.

Such was the teaching of St. Paul, the Bishops remembered, who insisted that “there is no place among Christians for racist ideas of any kind”.

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The Bishops quoted from the Apostle to the Gentiles: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28)”.

“In post COVID19 times a key priority and option for the Christian must be the promotion and defence of the equal dignity of each human person as a child of God and member of the one human family”, the Irish Bishops stressed.

Just this Tuesday, 10 different Traveller organisations released a joint statement calling on authorities to addresss “the discriminations, including structural racism, experienced by Black communities [in Ireland] and by many others including Travellers and Roma”.

Co-director of Traveller representative organisation Pavee Point, Martin Collins, later said that the “institutional and structural racism and inequality” Travellers and other minorities are faced with in Ireland in an “embedded and deeply seeded” way is evident in the poor living conditions, high unemployment rate, low education and health inequalities which they suffer.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar – whose father is of Indian descent – has also denounced that Ireland has a racism problem, saying that “it does worry me that young people of colour who [grow] up in Ireland are being treated as though they are not fully Irish”.

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– Return to Masses and Confirmations

In other points apart from racism in their statement after their Summer Plenary, the Irish Bishops also touched on the new Framework Document the prelates have prepared to help parishes back to public Masses “in a measured and safe way” from June 29, and also on the issue of the Confirmations that were postponed due to the pandemic, which the Bishops said will likely be held from late summer onwards.

The Pontifical Irish College in Rome will, on the other hand, not receive any Irish students for the academic year 2020-2021, the Bishops reported, even if they remain “open to the possibility of sending seminarians to the College in the future”.

Among other issues, the Bishops also welcomed Pope Francis’ theme for the next Synod of Bishops in October 2022 in the Vatican: For a synodal Church: communion, participation, and mission.

They noted that that theme dovetails with a number of alreading existing initiatives in the Irish Church, where “many bishops have organised assemblies, gatherings and deep-listening processes in their dioceses to help encourage a more synodal, missionary Church throughout the island – a Church which fosters greater ‘communion, participation and mission’ for the benefit of all”.

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More stories on Novena on the Church in Ireland:

Irish Bishops launch plan for return to Masses, say COVID aftermath “a tremendous opportunity to rediscover ourselves as Church”

COVID-19: Irish Primate calls for help from young people to manage transition back to full parish life

COVID-19 recovery: Social Justice Ireland calls on EU not to repeat “profound mistake” of post-GFC austerity, bank bailouts

December 2019: Dublin archbishop decries rise in Ireland of groups “clearly populist and racist”

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Cameron Doody

Director and editor at Novena
PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. Lecturer in ethics at Loyola University Maryland, Alcalá de Henares (Spain) campus. Religion journalist with 4 years experience.