independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Christians must speak up for what matters -- archbishop

21/12/2013. Pictured is Archbishop Michael Jackson in St Maelruain's church in Tallaght on Saturday where he participated in a service for members of the Syro Malabar Indians community. Photo: El Keegan
Archbishop Michael Jackson

Church of Ireland Archbishop Michael Jackson has said one of his hopes for 2014 is that people of a Christian conviction would "speak up for what matters to them".

In an interview with the Irish Independent, the Archbishop of Dublin said: "Religion still matters for an awful lot of Irish people, both the expression of it and the fact that other people are doing it for and with them."

However, he said there was an awful lot of frustration among those whose expectation was that everybody must be the same and "muck in".

"Actually it is not as easy as that. There are questions of identity. Respect towards difference can be quite an important way of giving people time to accommodate to one another and find things which they can honourably do together."

He wants a healthy democratic society that respects and accommodates differences.

This, he said, was not to "disrespect the integrity of those who are secular, as a healthy society debates vigorously".

"Most of us rejoice that we are part of a secular society because it gives us tremendous openness and freedom," he said.

Speaking in St Maelruain's parish in the Dublin suburb of Tallaght, the Co Fermanagh-born archbishop said the gift of Christianity was its promotion of the respect that came from valuing human beings as being made in the image of God.

The leader of the capital's 45,000-strong Anglican community paid tribute to the warm relations he had with many of his counterparts in the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Archbishop Jackson recently raised hackles within his own church when he criticised those who used the term "polyester Protestants" about newcomers, usually Catholic converts to Anglicanism.

He said: "Sometimes you have to be very careful that you don't -- through your own enthusiasm -- seek to take the community for which you have responsibility somewhere it might not want to go or it might want to go at its own pace."

MATURITY

Discussing the decade of anniversaries and 2014's centenary of the start of World War I, the archbishop said 2016 would be "tremendously interesting and potentially electrical" due to centenaries of both the Battle of the Somme and the Easter Rising.

In November, he hit out at the way members of his own church who had fought in World War I or World War II were shunned as "disloyalists" on their return to Ireland.

He said the forthcoming centenaries would be "a test of the two parts of Ireland" as to their "independent maturity -- how together we mark with respect the entitlement of others to mark something vital to them and how we show together that we can be good neighbours".

The 57-year-old told the Irish Independent that it often came as a surprise to people that the Church of Ireland community was an "overwhelmingly rural church" and also a minority both in the Republic and in Northern Ireland, where other traditions like Presbyterianism and Methodism gave an overall Protestant majority.

Speaking of the impact of immigrants from places like Nigeria and eastern Europe on smaller parishes, he said: "I would like people to hear who we are becoming."

Expressing his support for the benefits of immigration, he added: "Any island culture needs to repopulate itself from people without that island."

Citing one example of the changing face of the Church of Ireland, he said one of his clerics based in Dun Laoghaire was from Iceland.

The Lutheran priest was doing work there with the homeless, he said.

"She goes out one night a week throughout the night with a bus and gives food, hospitality and friendship to people who are living rough," Archbishop Jackson said.

On the issue of celibacy, which is not compulsory in the Church of Ireland, the married father of one said it was "a very difficult option".

"I see lots of happy people who are celibate and I really admire them because the mutuality of relationship is something that would be important to me," he added.

Irish Independent

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