Belfast: Cardinal Daly reflects on role of Church in NI peace

 The following text was delivered by His Eminence Cardinal Cahal B Daly at the presentation of his papers to the Political Collection Archive in the Linen Hall Library in Belfast on Friday. The contents are a personal collection of the Cardinal's speeches and homilies regarding peace in Northern Ireland. Copies of the Cardinal's papers will also be available in Queen's University Belfast, where they will be part of the Cardinal's personal library which he is bequeathing in its entirety to Queen's University Library. After introducing the collection, Cardinal Daly said: "I became bishop in 1967 and retired in 1996. My 29 years of active episcopal ministry coincided broadly with the years of what we have come to call 'The Troubles', which are usually dated between 1969 and 1994. From the beginning, I felt that the Church's response to the Troubles was going to be an important criterion of the relevance of the Church in Irish society in the 20th century. It seemed to me important that the Church's voice should be heard, addressing the moral questions raised by the Troubles, such as: the question of the moral legitimacy of violence; the question of justice and equality in society and of human rights; the problems of deprivation and exclusion which can foster violence; the sectarianism which so polarises Northern society and which motivated the loyalist campaign of violence against Catholics, running in tandem with the republican campaign of violence; the question of the moral conditions governing the State's use of violence to counter anti-state violence. In a society where there is virtually no cross-community consensus regarding the causes of the conflict or regarding the terms in which it might be resolved, anyone speaking or writing about the situation was bound to be "heard" differently and diversely interpreted by one or other community or interest-group. My own approach was based on the conviction that a church person like myself must avoid any suspicion of being a mouthpiece for one or other political tradition, and should take his stand only on the ground of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. At the same time, I was conscious that what I was saying was likely to be "overheard" by people of a different religious or political background, or what we would commonly call "the other persuasion" or "the other community". Consequently, anything one said or wrote should, I believed, "speak" to that "other community" also, and should show awareness of their convictions, their sensitivities, their rights. One had to resist any danger of being regarded as the "ethnarch" of a politico-sectarian community, rather than a minister of the Christian Gospel. Otherwise, one would only be creating or consolidating division, rather than working for reconciliation through mutual understanding. That stance itself was, of course, doomed to be seen by some as a betrayal of "one's own community", and a dereliction of one's pastoral duty towards "one's own people". Where feelings run high and community resentments are strong on "both sides", truth itself becomes an early casualty. St Paul wrote of "speaking the truth in love", and that is what the Christian pastor must always seek to do. Whether or to what extent I succeeded in doing so is for others to judge, not me. This is part of the reason for my presenting these volumes to the Linen Hall Library as part of its Political Collection. If anyone is interested, the unadulterated text is here to be examined. I am happy to let the record speak for itself." Source: Irish Bishops Conference Media Office

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