Bishop Brendan Leahy said we all need to have the courage to look at what role we could play in helping people in tremendous need.
He also felt a wider strategic review needs to take place in relation to our handling of asylum seekers generally, with facilities and conditions here falling way below acceptable standards.
“Anyone listening to their conscience now can’t but feel challenged by what we are witnessing these days, weeks and months on our television screens and other social media networks. Last month alone, according to reports, a record 107,500 migrants crossed the European borders.”
He said that the word “migrant” could as easily be replaced with “refugee” as more than 60% of those seeking help have come from Syria, Eritrea, and Afghanistan, nations he described as being in the grip of war and religious persecution.
“These people are seeking refuge for one reason or another; they are people in tremendous need and would not have set out on the hazardous journey unless there was an element of desperation about their situation.
“As bishop I find myself asking what is my response or our response as a diocese? I can’t but think of the heroic women and men of past generations in religious orders who set up projects to feed, teach and care for the poorest of the poor in our society. They responded to Jesus’s cry for help in their times.
“The time is on us now again to have such courage as we all have a role to play, locally and nationally in response to what is truly a tragic and shocking crisis.”
He said we all need to look within, at what our own response has been to the crisis. “We need to look at ourselves first and what we are doing and, for one, we certainly need to explore what more we can do as a diocese.”
He said he would be willing to play a part in a government-led interagency forum so that we can pool our resources and find the best and quickest way forward for a collective response.
But he said the plight of asylum seekers already in Ireland is such that any response needs to be dramatically different. “As well as tackling the current migrant crisis, we also have to acknowledge the need to address the plight of the asylum seekers in our midst already today,” he said.
“I’ve driven up to some of these centres and I am anything but reassured as to their suitability, as premises and locations. We’ve all heard of some dramatic circumstances of life in these centres, of families under dreadful pressures, new babies being born, marriages breaking up, of a sense of hopelessness.
“Surely we can do more than this to welcome people to our country, not least people who have escaped horrific and life-threatening circumstances at home.”