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Thursday, March 23, 2017
Belfast: bishop speaks at funeral of murdered Catholic
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 The Bishop of Down and Connor, Most Reverend Patrick Walsh, gave a special statement at the funeral of young Catholic, Gerard Lawlor, shot dead by a Loyalist paramilitary group, on Sunday. Yesterday thousands attended a vigil for the 19 year-old father-of-one. Today's Mass in St Gerard's Church, Antrim Road, Belfast was concelebrated by the Very Reverend Gerard Cassidy and the Bishop of Down and Connor, Most Reverend Patrick Walsh. Bishop Patrick said: 'This packed church this morning and the extraordinary numbers who attended the vigil on Tuesday evening is a testimony to the revulsion throughout the entire community at the murder of Gerard and the genuine outpouring of sympathy for you, Sharon and John, for your four sons and for Gerard's fiancee and child. We hold you in our prayers as we pray for eternal rest for Gerard. 'For over a year a pall of darkness, of gloom, of terror, has hung over this part of our city, lifted only momentarily in different areas. Now in these last days that pall has descended with a darkness of frightening density. 'Sunday night was a night of manifest raw sectarian hatred which could have resulted in multiple murders and which, indeed, did culminate in the murder of Gerard, a totally innocent young man, murdered for one reason and one reason only - that he was a Catholic. And, for some, being a Catholic is a crime deemed to merit execution. 'Within hours of his death the all-too-predictable dance of death on Gerard's grave had begun. People, often with sanctimonious faces and voices, were playing the blame game and the point-scoring game. 'It was hatred that murdered Gerard and there is a deadly progression in hatred from the first sowing of the seeds of hatred in a young mind to young lips spewing, hate-filled words and threatening slogans, to hands painting frightening graffiti and so to hurling pipe bombs and petrol bombs and being armed as a member of a paramilitary gang. 'Paramilitary gangs operating under a confusion of labels and cover names are terrorising not alone those whom they label as "the enemy" but, indeed, their own communities. Across the whole community people are living, in terror, in terror from the enemy without and from the enemy within. One recognises that the police service is fully stretched and under resourced in the situation in North Belfast at the present time; but people in every part of North Belfast, and I stress in every part, need and demand and are entitled, as citizens, to full protection. Those in authority must ensure that they receive it. 'Is there anyone worthy of his or her position of leadership who does not condemn without any reservation each and every, and I mean each and every, attempted murder on Sunday evening and the eventual murder of Gerard Lawlor? All of us in positions of responsibility and leadership must honour the trust placed in us, whether as a member of parliament, as a member of the Assembly, as a councillor, or as a Church leader. We must give true fearless leadership at the present time. Once again, as I have done on so many similar sad occasions, I make this heartfelt plea to all our elected representatives. In these frightening days have the courage to step out from your own patch, have the courage to stand together and to be seen to stand together on this one issue which surely must unite you all with one united voice speak your condemnation of murder, your total commitment to upholding that most sacred and fundamental human right - the right to life. 'A pall of darkness, perhaps of near despair, does envelope us. What light can penetrate that darkness, what hope can lift that despair? It is the light, it is the hope of Christ. The light of Christ must shine through the lives of each of us who profess to follow Christ. What response should I, as a Christian, make to the murder of Gerard? There is only one response, the response of Christ Himself executed on the cross. "Father forgive them". That is not easy, that is very demanding. Yes, the message of Christ is demanding. What could be more demanding than the command of Christ "Love your enemies"? 'Sharon and John, in your sincere words of forgiveness and love and your heartfelt plea for no retaliation for your son's murder, you have given us all a wonderful example of true Christian living. The light of Christ has shone through you and lighted up our darkness. For this we thank you as we give to you and to your four sons and to Gerard's fiancée and baby our deepest sorrow on this tragedy for your family. And when we have all departed and you are left alone with your thoughts and memories may you continue to receive from the God of all consolation the comfort and the peace that men of evil have tried to snatch from you.'
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