The thousands of pilgrims who climbed Croagh Patrick were told by the Archbishop of Tuam that people who were reluctant to criticise other religions felt they could say anything they wanted about Christianity.
Archbishop Michael Neary, speaking at 10.30am Mass after climbing the Co Mayo mountain on Reek Sunday, said different standards were applied when commenting on religions.
Around 30,000 climbed Croagh Patrick yesterday, some starting early, with about two dozen people receiving treatment after becoming ill or injured.
Archbishop Neary said that the same respect should be shown for all religions.
“In civilised society, anyone who dishonours the faith of Israel, its image of God or its great figures must pay a fine,” said Archbishop Neary. “The same is true for anyone who insults the Koran and the convictions of Islam.
“But when it comes to Jesus Christ and that which is sacred to Christians, there seems to be a different standard; freedom of expression knows no limits. In our commendable endeavour to become more understanding of the values of others, have we lost our capacity to uphold and respect our own values?
“If all we can see in our own religious tradition is the negative and destructive, then we are no longer capable of recognising what is good, wholesome, life-giving, and positive in any religion or culture. The reality is that we can only value the sacred traditions of others with respect if we have an appreciation of our own sacred traditions. In this way, we can enable others to reclaim what is best in their heritage.”
Good weather conditions contributed to the large number of pilgrims who made their way to the mountain outside Westport, continuing a tradition which has gone on for centuries.
Mayo Mountain Rescue treated a number of casualties throughout the day, with the volunteers on the mountain since the early hours to help pilgrims.
One man had to be airlifted to Galway University Hospital after suffering cardiac problems, others were treated for falls while one man required assistance after trying to make the climb heavily intoxicated.
Archbishop Neary criticised the move towards secularism in Irish society, and moves towards the marginalisation or banning of all religious symbolism.
“In times past it was difficult to imagine the world without God,” he said. “Today it is becoming a challenge to imagine the world with God. Our culture endeavours to make sense of the world without reference to God.
“Living in a society of technological control and precision we are reduced to thinking that we know all of the codes. Change, even change for the better, can be disorientating, threatening and traumatic.”
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