IRELAND'S greatest export down the centuries has been its people and its faith, the Primate of All Ireland said in his St Patrick's Day homily.
Referring to the celebration of the country's national saint by people of many creeds, languages and races all over the world, Archbishop Eamon Martin said it was a "testimony to the tremendous outreach to the rest of the world that Ireland has had over many centuries".
"Everywhere the Irish have gone we have brought warmth and smiles, laughter and music, tales of our beautiful green island at home - and devotion to the patron saint Patrick," he said in St Patrick's Cathedral Armagh yesterday.
The Archbishop noted that this year marks the 1,400th anniversary of the death in Italy of St Columbanus, the great apostle of Europe.
He suggested that parishes across Ireland should also remember Irish missionaries who gave their lives to the missions in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Urging the faithful to once again rekindle their missionary zeal and be inspired by St Patrick and become 'missionaries of mercy' for today's world, he said "mission is in our blood as Irish people".
Separately, Bishop John Kirby, chair of the Irish Episcopal Council for Emigrants, has warned that emigration continues to have a dramatic effect on Irish society.
"It is our hope that as the Irish economy improves there will be a focus on job creation so that those who were forced to emigrate will have the opportunity to return home," he said as the Episcopal Council's emigrant pack was launched.
Although the number of people leaving Ireland remains high - 81,900 people left our shores between April 2013 and April 2014 - the bishop suggested that the number of people emigrating has begun to fall.
Bishop Kirby said that the Irish Church and people must continue to reach out to those who are affected by migration.
On St Patrick's Day, he urged people to remember Irish people overseas, the families that have been left behind and those who have travelled to begin new lives in Ireland.
He said people should remember the human face of migration.