02 January 2015, The Tablet

Archbishop Martin calls for gay marriage debate

Open and unhindered debate by all sides of opinion must be heard ahead of May’s referendum in the Republic of Ireland on gay marriage, according to the Archbishop of Armagh, saying that it was a chance for faith groups to put their case.

“We believe we have something to say on the issue of marriage and we would like to be able to say it and to say it freely in the public square,” Archbishop Eamon Martin said.

The 53-year-old Primate of All Ireland said he was calling for a debate “free from insult or injury or hurt to any person whether they be people of a homosexual orientation or people of faith who would oppose change on the grounds that it is essentially redefining marriage”.

Speaking in Armagh, Dr Martin said the Church would like to be able to explain and share the good news about marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman, open to the bearing of children.

He added that it was a prophetic message in today’s “hyper-sexualised world” though he also recognised that it was a message that would not be wholly acceptable to a lot of people. But he said it must still be heard for the common good, and the good of children and society.

Elsewhere, the archbishop said he would be open to the possibility of a national synod for the Irish Church at some point in the future.

Speaking to The Tablet, he said that for now “we are listening on the ground, putting in place the new infrastructure for the Church in Ireland”, in a reference to a number of listening processes taking places in Irish dioceses.

With the appointment of up to eight new bishops and more to come, he pointed out that within the next few years almost half the episcopal conference will have changed.

“I think sometimes people look to big national centralised initiatives as if there is going to be a master plan for the Church in Ireland. I smile often when I think of Pope Francis’s lines in Evangelii Gaudium where he says, ‘I don’t want you sitting around board room tables like defeated generals dreaming up some massive strategy for change.’”

Dr Martin said he would be guided by his fellow bishops but his personal feeling was that “we might be some way off from a big national event; but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be engaging on the ground, as many of these new bishops are already doing all over the country”.

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