Bishop Donal McKeown has said that the forthcoming World Meeting of Families in Ireland must be much more than a “holy Ed Sheeran concert or Rolling Stones gig.”
The Catholic Bishop of Derry was speaking at a special World Meeting of Families (WMOF) Mass at St. Mary’s High School in Limavady.Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to gather in Dublin for the World Meeting of Families in August, with Pope Francis taking part in religious services and events in both Croke Park and Phoenix Park.
Speaking in Limavady, Bishop McKeown said that the WMOF was a huge international event.
He said: “It will certainly take a lot of work to welcome the world to Dublin for almost a week in August.
“But it will actually have been little more than a holy Ed Sheeran concert or Rolling Stones gig, if all it leaves behind is some photographs, a few good memories and an empty Phoenix Park.”
Jesus, he said, did not come as a popular entertainer who could tell great stories and work miracles.
“He came to change the world by presenting a new and challenging view of who we are and what we can become. If we in Ireland cannot use the week in August to inspire us, then we will have missed the point. It will – to quote Shakespeare’s Hamlet – been ‘full of sound and fury/signifying nothing’.”
The bishop also spoke on the relevance of WMOF for today’s society and of the importance of committing to relationships in an age when many “doubt the possibility of love and faithfulness.”
He said: “Throwaway relationships end up producing what one recent report called ‘an epidemic of loneliness.’ In a culture that doesn’t offer anything much deeper than ‘obey your thirst,’ or ‘let’s feel good’ a lifelong commitment seems a loss rather than a gain.
“In Ireland and Britain the average age at first marriage is about 32.
The message can go out that you ought to have fun before you settle down. And by implication, settling down is a loss. The Gospel message is very different. It says that we mature, not by avoiding responsibility, but by accepting it. We develop by taking on serious relationships, not by playing at them. We grow up by moving from dependence to independence to interdependence, not by treating life as a joke.
“Can we speak Good News into that culture and we help our young people to dream of something better than semi-detached relationships in a detached house?” he asked.
Bishop McKeown said the closing WMOF Mass on August 26 will be the largest single event in Ireland, perhaps since the last Papal visit.
“It will not just be an opportunity to have a good day out. It will be an event where we can proclaim to the world that God has a dream for what sort of world we could create if we took the Commandments seriously,” he said, adding: “It will not be an event for old Catholic Ireland to make itself heard. It will be a chance for the young parents of the future to say that they believe in God’s dream for this country and for this world. Changes in borders or changes in laws will not make a new Ireland. Changed hearts alone can do that.”