Saturday, January 19, 2013

New appointee will be youngest Catholic bishop in the country

Cardinal Seán Brady with new Coadjutor Archibishop of Armagh Eamon Martin after the announcement of his appointment in Armagh yesterday. photograph: david sleatorAt 51, the new Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh will, on installation in coming months, be the youngest Catholic bishop and archbishop in Ireland.

With honours degrees in mathematical science from NUI Maynooth, in divinity from St Patrick’s College there, and a master’s degree in philosophy from Cambridge University, he is eminently qualified academically to be titular head of the Catholic Church on the island.

However, of much more importance than academic prowess in these times, is his track record in dealing with child protection at the front line.

Since June 2011 he has been a director of the church’s child protection watchdog, its National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC).

In November 2011, on publication of an NBSC report which was damning of Derry diocese’s handling of clerical child sex abuse allegations between 1975 and 2011, Msgr Martin was unequivocal.

At a press conference in the city to launch the report he said past decisions, including non-disclosure of allegations to civil authorities, were taken by bishops themselves.

“All the decisions with regards to the use of child safeguarding are taken at the very top of the authorities in the church in the diocese,” he said.

Asked who the bishops were at the relevant times in Derry diocese, he responded: “Bishop Hegarty, Bishop Daly and Bishop Farren. The then bishop was responsible for taking these decisions.”

Awful wrong 

Addressing people abused by priests in the diocese he said: “No matter how positive this report may be about current practice, nothing can take away the awful wrong that was done to you. You trusted members of the church before and you had that trust terribly betrayed. Your dignity was violated. Your self-belief and your self-esteem were battered. Your spirit was crushed. The terrible things that happened to you can leave a wound and scar that doesn’t go away. When some of you got the courage to tell your story, no one really listened or took you seriously. I am truly sorry at what happened to you and ashamed at the way you were treated ... There can be no going back to a time when the welfare of children and young people was not paramount.” 

Msgr Martin has also been active where proposed abortion legislation in the Republic is concerned.

On December 4th last he took part with colleagues from the Irish Episcopal Conference in an anti-abortion street protest outside Leinster House against such proposed legislation.

He is one of a family of 12, six boys and six girls, reared in the Pennyburn area of Derry city.

His mother, Catherine, whose birthday was yesterday, still lives in the city but his father, James, died in 2006.

Born on October 30th, 1961, Msgr Martin was ordained in St Eugene’s Cathedral, Derry, on June 28th, 1987.

In September that year he was appointed assistant priest in Derry’s Templemore parish.

School president 

He joined the teaching staff of St Columb’s College, Derry, in September 1990 and in May 2000 became college president there. 

In June 2008 he was appointed executive secretary to the Irish Episcopal Conference in Maynooth.

In June 2010 he was appointed vicar general of Derry diocese and on November 25th 2010 was elected diocesan administrator there. 

His interests include music, particularly choral and classical music, as well as liturgical music generally. 

He also enjoys walking and gardening.

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