Friday, December 23, 2016

Archbishop says he's 'outraged' at the homelessness crisis

The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland is “outraged” at the homelessness crisis and the plight of families facing eviction at the hands of vulture funds.

In an exclusive interview with the Irish Mirror, the Bishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland Eamon Martin, stressed the pressing need for politicians to focus on the needs of families.

In a hard-hitting defence of ordinary people, he also spoke out about the “aggressive lenders” now repossessing homes on an increasing scale.

The Archbishop said the time has come for policy-makers to put families first and even hit out at the tracker mortgage scandal.

He added: “I think it’s a terrible scandal that there are so many people looking for social housing in Ireland at the moment who cannot access it.

“I think it’s outrageous so many people have had their homes repossessed because of rather aggressive lenders pursuing them at a time when if we really truly value family and home, and that’s what we celebrate at Christmas, then it needs to make its way into our policy making.
“We need to be monitoring the impact of policy on family... on homes. The tracker mortgages for example.

“Twenty years ago the Government established a commission on the family which was a really interesting piece of work where there was a lot of research done, a lot of policy examined so that Ireland would put family, and the needs of family, at the centre of its policymaking.”


The Archbishop said when the Pope visits Ireland in 2018 for the World Meeting Of Families it should act as a spur for the Government to put families and individuals before the economy.

He added: “Might that be a catalyst to re-examine the position of family and how we support family in Ireland.
“I think it’s true to the Irish psyche that home, family, the clan are who we are. It’s part of us as Irish people and something that would be a very worthwhile project.”

The Archbishop, who comes from a working class background in Co Derry, also acknowledged society is changing and there needs to be a broader interpretation of the word family.

He said: “I have a feeling that in recent years we have placed the individual autonomy, the autonomy of the individual, higher up on the scale of things than the needs of the community, or the cell of society.

I think in most societies it’s the home and the family and the household and if we are to positively discriminate, to use that term, in favour of family and I use family in its broadest sense.

“For us in the Church of course the traditional understanding of family – mother, father and children – is very, very central. However, I think we would also support any public policy which is seeking to promote the needs of the family unit, however that may be made up.

“Nowadays there are many different configurations of family but nonetheless it’s still that idea, because it’s the seat of love, it’s the place where people get their sense of worth, it’s the place where people are under terrible pressure.”
Archbishop Martin also spoke out about the prevalence of domestic violence, especially at this time of year.

He added: “I’m very conscious in these days leading up to Christmas... we’ve had meetings recently with Women’s Aid and other organisations who are working in the area of domestic violence... the kind of pressure that people are under nowadays, be they financial or pressures from addictions or whatever is going on in their lives is placing intolerable levels of domestic violence in society.

“I don’t want to be preachy coming up to Christmas but these to me are the central values that I think about at Christmas time.

Christmas is a time when most people think of their family. That applies I think to all of us... whether our family story has been a happy and a joyful one or even families where has been great pain or separation in relationships. Christmas is a time when people will often reach out and send a message of good wishes even to somebody from whom they’ve been estranged.”
Although the Vatican has not officially confirmed the Pope’s visit, Archbishop Martin is sure the Pontiff will come here in August 2018.

He said: “I think he wants to be here, he wants to be with us. The reason the Vatican hasn’t officially said he’s coming is that they don’t actually announce the Pope’s itinerary until a number of months beforehand.

“All things being well with Pope Francis’ health and well-being we’re hoping to have him in Ireland. The event itself is the World Meeting Of Families and in itself is a huge event in the life of the church.

“Since Francis became Pope one of his core messages and teachings has been about the importance of family and how the church supports family and also how the society should support the family.”

The 55-year-old Archbishop, the youngest ever Catholic Primate of Ireland, said the World Meeting of Families will run from a Wednesday to the following Sunday and from previous experience the Pope could be here for two days on the Saturday and Sunday.

He added: “We are hoping that if he did come to Ireland... might he extend his visit by a day or two and maybe visit Northern Ireland?

That would be a very meaningful thing for the people here and perhaps be seen as another significant symbolic moment on our journey of peace.”

The Archbishop said Irish people have great empathy with those who are suffering and are appalled at the events in Aleppo and the rest of Syria. He added: “Those scenes where people are queueing to get on buses to escape from bombs and terrible destruction. And today when people are waking up to hear of that tragedy in Berlin... this whole year has been punctuated by pain in many parts of the world.

“Then in Ireland there’s an empathy with the homeless. I know that at our carol service children came with gifts for St Vincent de Paul... to see a young boy coming up the aisle of the cathedral with a big parcel where that young boy clearly has a sense of ‘I’m fortunate, there are people who aren’t as well off as I am’.”

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