Archbishop Eamon Martin has called on politicians to reject divisive actions and warned there can be no going back “to the days of violence and death.”
The Derry Primate of All Ireland was speaking as he delivered his 2019 New Year message on the World Day of Peace on Tuesday.
He said that the progress made over the past 20 years remains “fragile and should be handled with care” as he focused on both the political situation and opposition to the introduction of abortion in Ireland.
Commenting on Pope Francis’ New Year message, on the theme of ‘good politics is at the service of peace,’ Archbishop Martin said: “Recent circumstances in Ireland, Britain, Europe and the United States have led many people to become disheartened with politics and with politicians. Still, it is important to pray that all politicians will work at the service of peace.
DANGER OF COMMUNITY POLARISATION
“Before Christmas I pointed to the danger of increased community polarisation on account of the Brexit debate and the political impasse at Stormont. Ireland’s Church leaders are urging political leaders to make a real difference as we enter 2019 and to help restore a sense of hope. We feel that with ongoing political and economic uncertainty, many businesses here are fearing for the future, while many families, struggling to make ends meet today, are anxious about what that future might hold.
“Added to this, the lack of a functioning devolved government in Northern Ireland concerns us. It not only drains hope from our society, but also has meant an ever increasing pressure on our schools, our hospitals, our welfare system and many other aspects of society’s infrastructure.
“As so often happens, it is the vulnerable and the marginalised that suffer most and they should be at the forefront of our thoughts and prayers as we enter into a new year.”
Archbishop Martin said that last September the Church leaders invited political party leaders to meet with them. “We sought to provide a safe space to facilitate open discussion and mutual understanding,” he said.
“We were encouraged by this meeting and we have begun a series of regional meetings, bringing together local politicians, community and church leaders to talk with one another, to build relationships and again to foster mutual understanding. We hope that this initiative can help bring at least a glimmer of hope.
“On a personal note, I encourage all our politicians in the coming challenging months to beware the temptation to retreat into partisanship. Many of our politicians and their predecessors have played their part in creating a more peaceful and more prosperous society here over the past 20 years.
“On this World Day of Peace I ask all our public representatives to make a resolution to reject divisive language and actions at all times during 2019.
“The progress we have made over the past 20 years is fragile and should be handled with care.
“There can be no going back to the days of violence and death on our streets.”
Archbishop Martin also called on families, communities, schools, colleges and workplaces “to sensitively and respectfully present life-saving alternatives to abortion, so that no vulnerable woman in crisis will feel that the only way out for her is to end the life of her unborn child” over the coming year.
He said: “This life-saving work deserves the full support of our local and national political representatives.
Having just marked the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is important to remember that the principle of the inviolability of innocent human life is the most fundamental of all moral principles.
It is the basis upon which every human right we enjoy as persons is predicated.
“This is not only a religious doctrine, but a universal human value, rooted in human nature itself, upon which our very freedom and dignity as a person rests.
“Freedom of conscience and freedom of religion are also internationally agreed human rights.
“The right to life is not given or taken away by the law of the land or by any politician. It cannot be relegated beneath the right to individual choice.
“Despite the legislation for abortion that is taking effect this month in Ireland, it remains gravely morally wrong to deliberately and intentionally take the life of an innocent person, whatever their state or stage of life.
“To co-operate in such an act, by supporting it directly or indirectly, either as an individual act or as a social policy, shall always be gravely wrong.
“Although the Eighth Amendment has been removed from the Constitution of Ireland, it remains no less true that the life of a woman and her unborn baby are equally deserving of love, respect and protection.
“Any law which suggests otherwise has no moral force. In good conscience it cannot be supported; it has to be resisted and we must continue to call and work diligently for its limitation, amendment and repeal.
“No one should be forced, against their conscience, to participate in abortion or to refer patients to others for abortion,” he concluded.