1916 values lacking in our society now, says archbishop
The country's top cleric has said Irish society needed to re-examine its ideas about "respectability" as he blamed many of today's economic woes on people and ideas once deemed "respectable".
In an address given at Regina Mundi College in Cork yesterday, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin called for a new social ethic which emphasises integrity and honesty and focuses on the weakest.
Referring to the 1916 centenary celebrations under way across the country, the Archbishop warned it was not enough to commemorate and celebrate a historical event of 100 years ago by watching parades on television or with lip service to equality.
Praising the "remarkable social manifesto" of the Proclamation, he said: "We have to ask how those who fought in 1916 for Irish independence would judge us and our society today."
Referring to some of the social ills of 2016, the Catholic prelate questioned whether Irish society today can "honestly say that all our children have equal opportunity in life?"
"We live in a world where there is still corruption and violence and lack of respect for life.
"People are exploited in many ways and are trafficked and treated as slaves. We live in a world where, alongside great and demonstrative wealth, many have difficulties in making ends meet. We live in a world where we throw away tonnes of food each week and where we have children coming to school hungry," he said.
Those who proclaimed the Republic in 1916 had a dream for a very different Ireland.
"How successful that dream has been realised in Ireland today cannot be measured simply in parades and celebrations, or through dramas and books and television documentaries. The success will be measured in terms of what kind of society we have built," Dr Martin said.
"Our society can be a sad one if you are bullied" and can be "a lonely one if you are on the margins", he added.
Commemorating 1916 is about getting our hands dirty in helping the marginalised to become fully part of our human family, he suggested.
Paying tribute to the ideals of the men and women of 1916 and their deep, personal spiritual inspiration, he described the history of Irish nationalism as a history of pluralism and different religious and social views.
Being true to the dream of 1916 means fostering in Ireland a new pluralism where people of different backgrounds and faiths and political views learn to work together for the common good, Dr Martin said.
"People of belief," he said, "and people with a secular inspiration must learn again how to speak with one another constructively and respect one another."
He also expressed the hope that amid the 2016 celebrations historians would take a closer look at the religious roots of the thoughts of the main protagonists of the Easter Rising, who had not always been supported by Church leaders at the time.
And, despite criticism of the Church in recent years, Dr Martin said "great things" were happening.
"Despite all the criticism of the Church, I think there is little doubt that, among the most respected categories of people in Irish society today, 'our local priest' must be in the top five, and for good reason. I am afraid that 'the bishops' as a group may be farther down on the popularity gauge," he added.