The Bishop of Achonry, in whose diocese the parish of Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon is preparing to receive at least 80 Syrian refugees, has insisted people of the town will be “welcoming” of the new arrivals.
widespread media coverage of rows centred on the choosing of
Ballaghaderreen’s Abbeyfield hotel to host the refugees without adequate
consultation, Bishop Brendan Kelly said his own sense locally was that
“the vast majority” are ready to greet the new arrivals, half of them
children, and do what they can to assist them.
“People are extremely compassionate to the horrendous circumstances
the refugees have gone through,” Bishop Kelly said, stressing that “we
will serve them as best we can.”
Aware of people’s concerns at the lack of consultation from
Government and similarly regarding pressures that might come to bear on
schools and medical facilities, Bishop Kelly said, “I understand these
anxieties. We rely on the support that must come to help with the
refugees, and no doubt resources will come.”
He added his belief that
many of the concerns he had heard would become “secondary” once the
refugees arrived because “people come first”.
“This is an opportunity for us as a Catholic community and Christian
people to display what we believe about every human being, beloved of
God,” he said, recalling that the announcement of the plan for
Ballaghaderreen had come as he and his priests were delivering homilies
for the celebration “of the visit of the Magi, the culmination of the
journey of the visitors from the East. That contextualised everything
for people from a Church perspective”.
In his own homily for January 8, Bishop Kelly told the congregation
at the Cathedral of The Annunciation and St Nathy, Ballaghderreen: “Just
as Jesus identified with the most impoverished and rejected people in
being born in a shed, and with the condemned and criminals in dying on
the cross, so he identifies with all refugees, and all endangered,
innocent and helpless people. It is our faith that Jesus comes to us in
them. And so must we reach out to help in whatever way we can…It’s a
big challenge, but we are up for it, please God.”
Recalling this week that “we all have relatives who relied on the
kindness of countries where they have gone, and even with that support,
there was suffering and grief”, Bishop Kelly pointed out, “the refugees
have suffered this and more”.
“We will do whatever we can in a parish context. We will do our best,” he reiterated.