Saturday, January 19, 2013

Derry cleric to succeed Brady as archbishop

Msgr Eamon Martin said yesterday he felt like one of the apostles in that he had to be courageous and “put out into the deep” in taking on his new role as Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh, a post he accepted with “nervousness and trepidation”.

Msgr Martin (52), a native of Derry city who is administrator of the Derry diocese, was yesterday appointed coadjutor archbishop by Pope Benedict. 

Under Catholic canon law this grants him the right to be the next Catholic primate and Archbishop of Armagh when Cardinal Seán Brady retires.


Cardinal Brady, who announced the appointment at the entrance of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh yesterday morning, reaches the 75-year retirement age in August of next year.

One senior Catholic source said that Msgr Martin was likely to be ordained as coadjutor archbishop by Easter but that it could be a two-year run-in and possibly longer – if Cardinal Brady gets an extension to his position – before he is made Archbishop of Armagh.

Msgr Martin, who comes from a family of six boys and six girls, said he was humbled and honoured to be appointed, while a little fearful, yet enthusiastic.

“I feel like the apostles in chapter five of Luke’s Gospel, being called by Our Lord to be courageous, to ‘put out into the deep’.”

Reading his opening address from an iPad, and assuredly taking questions from journalists, Msgr Martin spoke on issues such as clerical child abuse, abortion, the street disorder in Northern Ireland and the place of the Catholic Church in society.

Learning from past 

“One of the greatest challenges facing our church is to acknowledge, live with, and learn from the past, including the terrible trauma caused by abuse. I think today of all those who have been abused by clergy, and the hurt and betrayal they have experienced,” said Msgr Martin, who worked alongside Ian Elliott on the National Board for Safeguarding Children.

“I am saddened that many good Catholics were let down so badly over the issue of abuse and that some have even stopped practising their faith. It saddens me because I love God and I love the church that I serve,” he added.

On abortion he supported the Irish Catholic bishops’ position.

He said he would be saying a special Mass in Carndonagh, Co Donegal, today in support of the Unite for Life vigil in Dublin, and that in December he was one of the senior clerics who attended the Vigil for Life outside the Dáil.

Msgr Martin said, “We believe there isn’t a need to legislate on this issue, that the protections for the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn child are already there, and that that could be clarified by a form of guidelines and made clearer so that none of our doctors and none of our nurses feel that they do not know or that they will not be secure in doing what they believe is the best thing to protect life.”

Msgr Martin said the work of Vatican II “remains our work today, and its documents provide our compass as we strive to bring renewal to every area of church life.

“There is a need for a mature relationship between church and society, in both parts of this island, and people of faith have a vital role to play,” he added.

‘Progressive thinker’ 

Mgr Martin said “the continued threats from those who appear not to want lasting peace, and the tensions on our streets in recent days, remind us how important it is to work more closely together for true and lasting reconciliation”.

Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, in welcoming his appointment, described him as a “progressive thinker”.

Asked for his reaction, Msgr Martin said, “I am not sure if I would describe myself as a progressive thinker but I do like to think.”

A native of Pennyburn in Derry and a second-level student in St Columb’s College, Derry – of which he was later president – his third-level studies were in Maynooth, Queen’s University, Belfast, Cambridge and the Institute of Education in London.

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