The invitation to Archbishop Eamon Martin to preach at the Church of Ireland cathedral in Armagh on the anniversary of the Reformation was “an important development in the dialogue that lies at the heart of contemporary ecumenical relations in Ireland,” according to Archbishop Michael Jackson of Dublin & Glendalough. The Church of Ireland leader was responding to Archbishop Martin’s homily, ‘Reconciling the Reformation’, which he gave at choral evensong in St Patrick’s Cathedral to mark the 500th anniversary of Luther’s theses.
In his homily, Archbishop Martin, the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, called for a “strengthening” of the two churches’ shared Christian witness because more people are living their lives on the island of Ireland without any reference to God or to religious belief. Acknowledging secularisation’s impact in the “steady decline” in Church attendance and vocations, Archbishop Martin said he was convinced that in the midst of an increasingly secular world, “we in the various Christian traditions are called to combine our efforts out of our ‘certain hope’ for the world”.
He suggested that reconciliation between the churches could see them bring their Christian conviction to public discourse about issues such as the sacredness of all human life and the dignity of the person, the centrality of the family, as well as solidarity and the need for a fair distribution of goods in the world and about “a society that is marked by peace, justice and care for all, especially the most vulnerable”.
Archbishop Martin also recognised that many people looking at the two Churches from outside saw a history of division and sectarianism, of intolerance, mutual recriminations and open hostility. “This is a source of scandal, and something which has dimmed the light of the Gospel,” he said. People of faith, in the various Christian traditions, “share the responsibility of leading the way in transforming relationships and in healing the legacy and pain of our troubled past,” he added.
Speaking to the Tablet about this significant ecumenical gesture to the Catholic Primate as well as the content of his homily, Archbishop Jackson said it “takes up themes regularly discussed by Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops in Ireland in the spirit of IARCCUM” (the International Anglican/Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission). This annual meeting of representatives of the Irish Episcopal Conference and of the Bishops of the Church of Ireland met this week in Dublin and discussed issues of common interest including education, engagement with young people, the ecumenical possibilities of the World Meeting of Families and the plight of refugees and migrants.
PICTURE: Dean Gregory Dunstan, Archbishop Eamon Martin & Archbishop Richard Clarke ©Church of Ireland