Pope's visit an opportunity to reflect on key questions facing Irish society: Bishop

Pope's visit an opportunity to reflect on key questions facing Irish society: Bishop

An Irish bishop has said the World Meeting of Families and Pope's visit are an opportunity for Irish society to reflect on the big questions and decisions it faces.

During his homily to mark the launch of World Meeting of Families 2018 Bishop Donal McKeown also urged Pope Francis to "ask awkward questions and speak the truth in love about how the Church needs to repent and equip itself if it is to be a credible witness of God’s mercy and love in 2018".

Bishop McKeown went on to highlight the key questions he believed face Ireland as a society. They were:

- Why are we losing too many people, young and not so young, for want of a reason for living?

- How do we create a home environment that will help our young people to thrive?

- How do we develop an economy that serves people and not just the system?

- How do we balance the desires and rights of adults with the needs of children?

- How do we provide healthy role models that will inspire society rather than merely boost the egos of the celebrities?

- How do we defend the weakest despite pressure to prioritise the voice of the strong?

Bishop McKeown said: "In the face of these questions, I hope that Pope Francis will place a mirror in front of both Church and State. It is always better to be unhappy with the right questions than happy with the wrong answers.

"I hope he will ask awkward questions and speak the truth in love about how the Church needs to repent and equip itself if it is to be a credible witness of God’s mercy and love in 2018.

"I hope he will encourage civil society to look beyond the gloss and the jingles if it is to cherish all the children of the country equally.

"I hope and pray that Church and state learn from the mistakes of the past but not be trapped by only looking backwards.

"The blame game always seeks the fault in somebody else. The uncomfortable Gospel asks leaders of all sorts in society to take the plank out of their own eyes first so that they can see where the uncomfortable truth lies."

The Bishop said he did not want the World Meeting of Families and the visit of Pope Francis to be seen as an opportunity to strengthen the Church as an organisation.

"Power corrupts and nourishes arrogance. But I do pray that this week will inspire dioceses, parishes and families to build community in the face of an epidemic of loneliness. I pray that faith communities will be places of God’s hope in a frightened world.

"I pray that churches will promote a gracious way of having difficult conversations in a world where harsh words often seem to dominate. The Church does not exist for its own sake. It exists only to continue the mission of Jesus in the service of finding peace with the past so that we can create a hope-filled future.

"Like Jesus, the Church of Christ exists not to be served but to serve. I am sure that Pope Francis will call us to that."

Bishop Donal McKeown
Bishop Donal McKeown

Bishop McKeown said he recognised that the call to sanctity and to self-sacrificing heroism, to chastity and faithfulness is not a welcome one "in some quarters where the logic of the self-indulgent market dominates" and that as a result "some will seek to criticise the messenger in order to avoid engagement with the message.

"But as we approach important decisions about the future of this island, this World Meeting will challenge us all to prioritise building a healthy society and not just growing market share, to inspire a new generation of Irish people with a vision for the future as we learn from the past.

"Changing hard borders will not heal hard hearts. Tired, hollow mantras and self-righteous condemnations serve no-one. Young people are not inspired by angry adults.

"This week’s events in Dublin are an invitation for us all to reflect. It is not a time for quick, smart answers but for thoughtful listening. It is a moment of divine grace where we can together seek the truth that alone can set us free.

"It is a precious God-given opportunity that we waste at our peril. It is an important stage in an adult conversation about what a new Ireland would look like. It is a key moment in discerning what a renewed Irish Church will look like as it seeks to play a positive and prophetic role in civic society.

"The Gospel of the Family is still joy for the world," he concluded.

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