The Archbishop of Armagh & Primate of All Ireland, Most Revd John McDowell, used his presidential address at the opening of General Synod 2021 to pay tribute to Mrs Pat Hume, who died at the beginning of this month. Archbishop McDowell said Mrs Hume’s “quiet, utterly unseen, steely, consistent and lifelong work for peace and good relationships on this island and between these islands” had been of incalculable value. The Primate passed on Synod’s deepest sympathy and the assurance of its prayers to the Hume family.

Archbishop McDowell’s address ranged across global issues, such as the coronavirus pandemic and climate change, and matters closer to home, including relations in and between these islands. The Church of Ireland could not solve the climate crisis, the Primate said, but we could not honestly challenge governments without also challenging ourselves. Our credibility with another generation depended on our willingness to contribute to a solution, he said.

“I said last year that I was concerned about certain currents and developments in diplomacy and politics in and between these islands,” Archbishop McDowell said, “which had the potential to eat away at many of the gains, particularly in Northern Ireland, secured, for instance, by the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, and agreements on Legacy. Those pressures remain and have, if anything intensified. And they will continue to do so, as long as Northern Ireland is governed by policies which primarily respond to the needs of places other than Northern Ireland, wherever they may be. Indeed, the whole of Ireland is beginning to be redolent of how it was in the seventeenth century, with the warring super-powers of Europe slugging it out for supremacy, but leaving behind social and political divisions which will be found difficult to heal.

“Nowadays,” the Primate said, “the weapons are not made of iron and steel but of bitter words and the manipulation of facts and emotions. Sometimes opposing sides can pull so hard at either end of the diplomatic rope that the knot becomes so tight that it is very difficult to untie. This matters to those whose primary allegiance is to the God of Peace whose Apostle urges us to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace in this island we inhabit.”

The Covid-19 pandemic had broadened people’s horizons, the Archbishop said. It was a world-wide crisis – a global pandemic. “We are now called as citizens, and as Christians, to respond to the challenges of creating a new world based on a new set of relationships. Relationships matter. The path which Jesus Christ opened up for us to enter into a new relationship with his Father, and the implications that has for all other relationships.

“Perhaps our relationships with one another in church are a good place to begin to reclaim that life.  A life of simplicity and truth and forbearance which is a life of service in the places where we live.  We are a family, and as I never tire of saying, families get their vigour and interest from where brothers and sisters differ from one another, rather than where they are similar.”

You can read the Primate’s Presidential Address in full by clicking on the link below.

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