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No mention of ‘green beer, snakes or shamrock’ in the writings of St Patrick, says archbishop

Curtailed celebrations can let people rediscover patron saint’s true message, says Martin

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Archbishop Eamon Martin. Photo: Mark Marlow/The Irish News

Archbishop Eamon Martin. Photo: Mark Marlow/The Irish News

Archbishop Eamon Martin. Photo: Mark Marlow/The Irish News

A curtailed St Patrick’s Day provides Irish people with an opportunity to rescue the real St Patrick from the “legends and distractions surrounding him”, the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland has said.

In his message for the national feast day, Archbishop Eamon Martin noted that the pandemic and Covid-19 restrictions have forced the cancellation of traditional parades, parties and big sporting events, while even the White House presentation of the bowl of shamrock has gone virtual.

Dr Martin said that paradoxically these curtailments offered people an opportunity to read instead about the country’s patron saint through his own writings where they would find no mention of “green beer, snakes or even shamrock”.

Referring to the current challenges, he said he was praying for those struggling after contracting the Covid-19 virus or having to isolate; those in hospital and intensive care, those whose jobs or livelihoods have been threatened, and those exhausted from caring and worrying.

He was also thinking of those who are far away on St Patrick’s Day or in hospital or care, or otherwise unable to join their families.

The Archbishop of Armagh, where St Patrick founded his first large stone church in 445AD, also spoke about Ireland, north and south, “at this pivotal moment in our shared history, a time when we look back 100 years to separation and partition on this island and all that has happened to divide, grieve and polarise us”.

The Church leader paid tribute to the achievements and progress of Irish people, and the possibilities for lasting peace and reconciliation, “for harnessing the beauty and uniqueness of our land, and for building relationships that will bring us closer together rather than divide us”.

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Separately, the leaders of the main Churches in Ireland issued a joint statement for St Patrick’s Day in which they too reflected on the centenaries of 1921.

In their statement, recorded in St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral in Armagh, the leaders of the Church of Ireland, Catholic Church, Presbyterian Church, Methodist Church and Irish Council of Churches acknowledge and “lament the times that we failed to bring to a fearful and divided society that message of the deeper connection that binds us.

“We have often been captive churches; not captive to the word of God, but to the idols of state and nation.”

While some may struggle with the concept of a shared history when it comes to the centenary of the partition of Ireland, the establishment of Northern Ireland and the resulting reconfiguration of British-Irish relationships, the churchmen say the reality is “that we have to live in a shared space on these islands, and to make them a place of belonging and welcome for all”.

They say there is “a moral responsibility to acknowledge the corrosive impact of violence and words that can lead to violence, and a duty of care to those still living with the trauma of its aftermath”.

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