Archbishop urges new Taoiseach to reopen faith forum
A SENIOR Catholic cleric has urged Taoiseach Enda Kenny to reconvene a national forum for regular church-state dialogue on faith and social issues between the new Government and Ireland's religious leaders.
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin yesterday said it would be "a good idea" for Mr Kenny to call a meeting of the Government's forum with Christian, Jewish and Islamic leaders as well as humanists.
The last time the forum met was in April 2008.
Archbishop Martin told the Irish Independent the forum had not met during the three years in office of outgoing Taoiseach Brian Cowen because "of the very difficult period in the economic life of the country".
Church leaders were assured by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern that "the structured dialogue", provided for in the Lisbon Treaty, would continue as an official channel for them to express their views on matters relating to a multi-cultural society.
It was first set up by Mr Ahern in 2007, who was congratulated by Cardinal Sean Brady for being the first head of government in Europe to establish an official body for talks between politicians and religious leaders.
Archbishop Martin was speaking before the start of a multi-denominational service of prayer for the 31st Dail, held in St Ann's Church of Ireland in Dublin's Dawson Street which was attended by President Mary McAleese, and political leaders including Mr Kenny, his predecessor Mr Cowen, Eamon Gilmore, Micheal Martin and Gerry Adams.
Also present were former Taoisigh Garret FitzGerald and Albert Reynolds and outgoing ministers Brian Lenihan, Brendan Smith, Eamon O Cuiv and Dara Calleary.
Church leaders last night noted how in his first speech as Taoiseach, Mr Kenny said that the challenges facing the Fine Gael-Labour Government were not just financial, but also included a spiritual dimension.