Increasing numbers of Irish people are living their lives without any reference to God, Archbishop Eamon Martin has said.
The Derry native and Catholic Primate of All Ireland was speaking during his Homily during a Choral Evensong service in Saint Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, Dublin, to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.
Archbishop Martin suggested that strengthening shared Christian witness was key to ensuring that reconciliation between different denominations is advanced.
He said: “The role of religion and faith in Irish society, north and south, has clearly changed dramatically, influenced by the process of secularisation and evidenced by a steady decline in Church attendance and in vocations to ministry. More and more people are now living their lives without any reference to God or to religious belief.
“It is in this environment that all of us as members of Christian traditions are being called to courageously ‘go out of ourselves’ to engage in mission.
“Our wounded world needs so much to be healed and enlightened by the Gospel, and we are all called to be prophetic in shining the light and truth of the Gospel into some of the trickiest and most sensitive issues of our time.
“All around us we see people discarded by society, or starved of purpose, ‘robbed of hope’, or simply confused by the superficiality of what is on offer to them. Jesus in our hearts is calling on all of us Christians: ‘give them something to eat!’”
Archbishop Martin said that while some in society felt that Christians should “save it for the privacy of your home”, a relationship with Jesus compels Christians to participate in the public sphere.
“I am convinced that in the midst of an increasingly secular world,” Archbishop Martin said, “we in the various Christian traditions are called to combine our efforts out of our ‘certain hope’ for the world.
“We therefore present to public discourse our consistent Christian conviction about the sacredness of all human life and the dignity of the person, about the centrality of the family, about solidarity and the need for a fair distribution of goods in the world, about a society that is marked by peace, justice and care for all, especially the most vulnerable.
“Of course we must find new ways of presenting our sincerely held perspectives alongside those of other faiths and none in conversations about significant issues and values. Such engagement by people of faith is made all the stronger if we do it together and, where possible, when we have a unified voice on the key ethical issues of our time.”
He added that he also recognised, “sadly”, that many looking in “see a history of division and sectarianism, of intolerance, mutual recriminations, and open hostility within the Christian family - this is a source of scandal, and something which has dimmed the light of the Gospel”.
“We people of faith, in the various Christian traditions on the island of Ireland, share the responsibility of leading the way in transforming relationships and in healing the legacy and pain of our troubled past,” he said.