Archbishop warns over immigration scaremongering
The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland has appealed to Irish people not to exaggerate the level of immigration in order to "create fear".
Speaking in Knock, Co Mayo, after delivering a keynote homily at the nine-day novena, Archbishop Eamon Martin expressed concern over the use of words such as "swarms" in relation to immigrants.
This was a term controversially used by the British Prime Minister David Cameron.
"We have to be careful that we are not exaggerating the numbers. In the last three years, how many young Irish people have left this country? Probably up to 40,000," said the Archbishop.
He said that the number of people entering Ireland through immigration was not as high as some would suggest.
Dr Martin added: "We have to be careful of the fear factor that is sometimes generated on this issue and instead look at more creative ways of welcoming people into the country."
He said the Government should be encouraged to keep playing its part in the Mediterranean through the Navy, and he applauded the work of the naval vessels the LÉ Eithne and the LÉ Niamh.
"Irish people have an understanding of emigration and an understanding of how you can be welcomed and make it in another country.
"But increasingly we are also beginning to understand immigration," said the Archbishop.
"We have a lot of new communities who are actively growing up in Ireland - and I think we have a lot to do and learn about how we can integrate our 'new irish' more into community life, parish life and Church life."
He admitted it is "a struggle for us in the Church". In his own diocese of Armagh, Dr Martin said many parishes had large numbers of new residents - but the challenge was to get those new residents to feel a part of their parish and become members of church choirs and parish councils.
He said: "We have to find more ways of integrating our new communities and harvesting, in a good sense, the contribution and the riches and diversity that they can make to this country because that is what other countries managed to do with the Irish who came to them."
He suggested that last week's visit of almost 200 US pilgrims to Ireland with Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York had shown how Irish people had contributed to American life and society.
One group of young American nuns in Knock told him on Saturday: "We're here because of what Irish Sisters did for us."