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Thursday, February 23, 2017
Irish bishop appeals for remains of the 'Disappeared'
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¬†The Bishop of Down and Connor, has renewed his appeal for information about the remains of people the IRA abducted, murdered and secretly buried during the 1970s. Bishop Patrick Walsh was speaking on Saturday at the funeral of Jean McConville, 37, one of the so-called Disappeared. The mother-of-ten was taken by the IRA and shot dead 31 years ago, after she went to the aid of a fatally wounded British soldier outside her front door. Her remains were found on a beach in the Republic of Ireland two months ago. On Saturday, some of her nine surviving children helped carry her coffin which left her son Michael's home in Crumlin for Requiem Mass at St Paul's Church in the Falls Road, Belfast. The Mass was celebrated by Rt Rev Mgr Thomas Toner. After the service, the cortege made its way to Divis Street in Belfast, from where Mrs McConville was abducted, and a minute's silence was held. Then Mrs McConville was buried beside her husband in Lisburn, County Antrim. Bishop Patrick Walsh made the following statement: 1972 was a year of carnage of horrific proportions ≠ 496 people brutally killed, 496 families left to mourn. Among those families, each of whom is not a statistic, was the McConville family. Already mourning their father's natural death at the beginning of the year, now as the year drew to its close, mourning their mother's death, a death cruel in its execution and cruel in its consequences for a large and now orphaned family, a cruelty which was compounded by the burial of their mother in an unmarked grave. Every aspect of the murder was inhuman, it touched the depths of depravity. For us all a family death is a time of great grief and heartbreak but the grief and the heartbreak is softened in the immediacy of the death by that honoured Irish tradition, the wake, and in the longer term by visits to the family grave and caring for it. You, Jean's family, have waited as a family for over thirty years for this day, waited wounded and scarred with grieving and restless hearts. And at times during those thirty years you must have felt agonisingly alone. But there were many people who supported you over the years, many here at this Mass and you have gratefully acknowledged their help. And you were supported, as you yourself supported, the other families who were suffering as you were ≠ the families whose loved ones still lie buried in unmarked graves - and our hearts and our prayers in this Mass are with you the families who still suffer an agonising wait. Today as I have done on so many previous occasions I make a fervent and heartfelt plea to anyone who can help with information: In God's name, in the name of humanity, give that information and give peace of mind to other distraught families. In this Mass we pray for eternal rest and peace for Jean, your mother. We pray for peace in the hearts of each of you, Jean's family, and in the hearts of all who are still mourning and waiting. We pray that in this Mass God will give you comfort and consolation. In this church of St. Paul may the words of St Paul find an echo in your heart. St. Paul tells us that God is "a gentle Father, and a God of all consolation who comforts us in all our sorrows" and then he goes on to say that this gentle Father comforts us "so that we can offer others in their sorrow the consolation that we have received from God". II Cor. 1,3-4. And we recall the words of our Divine Lord "Blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted". Mt. 5,5. Jesus comforted everyone he met, comforted them with his love, and "nothing can come between us and the love of Christ". Rom. 8,35. Each one of us as true followers of Christ must be the bearers of Christ's love and comfort as Jean McConville was for a dying soldier on that fateful December night in 1972. May the love of Christ now enfold her for ever and enfold all those whom she loved. Homily of Mgr Thomas Toner My brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, We gather today with a very special set of brothers and sisters, the children of Jean McConville. It is with you that our thoughts and prayers are today, with Robert, Archie, Helen, Agnes, Mickey, Tucker, Susie, Billy and Jim and the context is what was done to your mother and what that has done to you over the thirty years. When we celebrated Mass on December 7th last for Jean's 30th anniversary, it was Advent, a season when the Church looks at the coming of Jesus in three ways ≠ in the past at Bethlehem, the present and in the future in hope and expectation for His coming again. We reflected that the story of Jesus overlapped with your story as children of Jean McConville: The past when your mother disappeared The present as you campaigned to recover her body and The future to which you looked forward with hope and expectation for the day when you could bury your mother with the dignity of a Christian funeral, and lay her to rest in a grave of her own. That day has come. It was a great relief when it was resolved that your mother could be buried in the same grave as your father ≠ for the sanctity and symbolism of a grave have deep personal significance for us. This was reinforced for me last month on a renewal course in Rome. One of the sites we visited was a post war burial place. The story is that in 1942 Italian resistance fighters killed 32 Nazis and Hitler ordered that ten Italians be killed for every German. The local commander added on an extra five and killed 325 Italians, and then blew up the caves to cover the bodies. After the war the Italians excavated the bodies and constructed a low ceilinged man-made cave and all 325 lie in row upon row of little vault like graves, each with a photograph, name and age ≠ except for some who were never identified. I stood, slightly overcome, in that sacred place. It was a precious moment. As I looked at photographs of young men, and a young boy of 14, I could only reflect on the depths of depravity and shame to which violence drags the human spirit. The beauty and simplicity of that burial place, with flowers at some graves 60 years later, pet me in more touch with eternity than all the basilicas and churches in Rome. Those graves spoke. They are an eloquent statement of what Jean McConville and all our disappeared are justly entitled to after their shameful murders. That mausoleum marks one of the most despicable acts of the Second World War. In the history of our troubles there can be no more despicable act than the abduction, murder and casual disposal of the body of Jean McConville and subsequent plight of her ten children. It is our most shameful example of the moral corruption and degradation that violence generates in the human spirit. 'The life and death of each of us has its influence on others', St Paul tells us. The life and death of our mothers have profound influence on all of us ≠ the death of Jean had more influence than most; it not only devastated the lives of her children but it dehumanised her murderers and stripped them of all dignity and respect. While the desecration of graves may be one of the vilest symptoms of our sick society, it pales into insignificance before the desecration of human bodies. Jean McConville and the other disappeared will forever stand in judgement on the shame and guilt of their murderers, as do the young men buried in the mausoleum outside Rome. For all the 135 families in Rome, the excavation of the bodies of their loved one years after they were murdered, and the creation of the shrine of graves, must have brought great healing. The burning of lamps and the laying of flowers 60 years later are evidence of this. It is our prayers that the recovery of your mother's body 30 years after she was murdered, and laying her to rest with your father, will bring you great healing, individually and as a family. You will now have your sacred place, your place of pilgrimage. And that is our prayer for all the disappeared. And another site in Rome that brought home the sanctity and significance of our graves was the catacombs where the graves of 2000 years ago are still revered. But reverence for graves goes right back to the mists of history as we read how Abraham's grave was marked before history began: at the cave of Macphelah, opposite Mamre, in the field of Ephron the Hittite, sons of Zohar, the field Abraham bought from the sons of Heath. All that is like a legal title. And after the crucifixion the Gospel tells us that they "took note of where they buried Jesus". And so the most sacred place in Christendom is also a grave, in this case an empty grave, because from there Jesus rose from the dead. You have reached at last the end of a chapter in your personal and family story. But it is not the final end. The final climax of the story of Jesus is His resurrection from the grave. If the grave of Jesus were not empty we would not have the promise of eternal life. And we would not be celebrating today the Feast of All Saints. All of us whose mothers have died remember them especially on this Feast. You bury your mother on the Feast of All Saints and can forever celebrate her on this day. It is into the power of the Risen Christ that we now commend Jean and all our beloved dead. May she rest in peace. Source: Irish Bishops Conference Media Office/ICN
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