Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Martin hails saint's spirit as model for church revival

ARCHBISHOP Diarmuid Martin

yesterday lauded a 19th-century French priest as a model for "mustering" a revival of an Irish church damaged by paedophile priest scandals.

After a similar turnout in Cork on Sunday, up to 1,000 people gathered on the north side of Dublin to view the sacred relics of St John Vianney, the 'Cure of Ars'.

The tour was organised by the Irish bishops as a flagship event for 'the year of the priest' called for by Pope Benedict XVI.

Archbishop Martin led more than 20 clergymen and Bishop Guy Bagnard of Belley-Ars, who accompanied the relics from France.

After Mass, the congregation was invited to move toward the altar and venerate the relics by kissing them.

In his homily, Archbishop Martin took the opportunity to liken the strength of St John to what the church needed to muster now in these times of great difficulty.

Humility

"St John's simplicity and humility helped him attract and affect the lives of thousands," said Archbishop Martin.

"He lived in a time of great difficulty for the church, of challenge for the church -- indeed hostility towards the church.

"He didn't respond with an aggressive media strategy. He didn't present himself with learned words but with a life of simplicity. He rejected the superficialities of the time and turned to what endures. This was inspired by prayer and his extraordinary understanding of the mercy of God."

Archbishop Martin said that today the church was called on to reach out to many, who in the face of emptiness, superficiality, violence and corruption, were seeking a sure foundation for meaning and purpose in their own lives.

"But many of those who genuinely seek meaning and purpose in their lives say quite openly they no longer feel the church is the place where they can find the integrity on which they wish to build their values and their lives," he added.

"Many are disillusioned with the church. The church is looked on by many as something that imposes burdens, which is responsible for dejection. Many are leaving the church, calling it irrelevant to their lives," he said.

"We have to ask ourselves what has happened, but above all we have to ask how can we reform and renew the church. It must become more authentically the place where the truth is proclaimed about God, humankind, and the integrity of the creation within which we live."

St John was born in 1786, and in spite of his failure to pass his theology exams, he became famous for spending up to 18 hours a day hearing confession in Ars, close to Lyon.

He was canonised by the Catholic Church in 1925.

SIC: II

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