06/5/10 Book Launch of Trocaire

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Homily Notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland
———-
Newman House, 6th May 2010
Trocaire constitutes a major contribution of the Catholic Church in Ireland not just to development projects but to the consciousness of Irish people and Irish public opinion around the question of international solidarity.  From its beginnings Trocaire gathered to itself and built on the wisdom that had been accumulated by the Irish missionary tradition.  Irish missionaries brought the message of the love of Jesus Christ for all through the provision of education and health care services for the poor where it would not otherwise been available.   Their living out in their own lives of that love of God revealed in Jesus Christ led them to give themselves in the service of others.  They headed out to live with and work with brother and sisters in distant lands and they gave their entire lives in service.
 
Only recently I was walking along a street in Chicago where I found a small plaque fixed to an anonymous office building which noted that the first Sisters of Mercy resided there when they arrived in the city from Ireland to establish Chicago’s first hospital.   The Irish missionary tradition around the world made a pioneering contribution to providing education for women in situations where this was otherwise impossible.   I remember one senior UN official not particularly partial to positions of the Holy See who would in all honesty admit to me that she would never had had access to the same level of education as did her brothers were it not for the presence in the city where she grew up of Irish religious sisters.
Trocaire gathered and benefited from the missionary tradition but established itself as independent from that tradition, even though from the outset it was the work of Irish missionaries which very often provided the first openings and background information about the social situation in countries where Trocaire was to work.
Trocaire was to become a second arm of the helping outreach of the Irish Church.   Its success was greatly helped, as the book points out, by the clear enthusiasm of the Irish Episcopal Conference especially Cardinal William Conway and Cardinal Cathal Daly as well as its Bishops President of Trocaire, Bishop Eamonn Casey, Bishop Michael Murphy and Bishop John Kirby, as well as by a dedicated staff both at home and in the field.
The awareness raising work done by Trocaire was not just aimed at public opinion in the sense of political influence, though that was important.  The Trocaire Box found its way into schools and homes and established a real sense of an initiation into solidarity from the earliest age.  I have personally on many occasions repeated how my initial sense of international solidarity came from the fact that our family bought two magazines each month and they were not the The Economist or International Affairs, but magazines one called Africa and the other The Far East.  They did see me join the Kiltegan Missionaries or the Columban Fathers, but many years later when I was a reader of more sophisticated reviews about development I was always fascinated to visit towns in Africa or Asia about which I had read as a child in those missionary magazines.   For many my experience in reading about missionaries was replaced by the fascination of what the Trocaire Box involved, which evoked not just fascination and interest in our global world but direct generosity.  
Our book this evening looks back at the history of Trocaire and its links with Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical Populorum Progressio.  It shows just how much Trocaire and the Irish Catholic Church have every reason to celebrate the work of a remarkable instrument of sharing and solidarity which is truly a reflection of the mission of the Church to be a sign of the unity in Jesus Christ of all humankind.
It is good to celebrate one’s history, but history is more than nostalgia.  History is about the past, yet a sense of history is essential to be able to evaluate the present and the future.  History is above all about analysis of historical facts to learn lessons for the future. Hopefully this publication will help all of us who are friends of Trocaire to look towards the future, at the changed and changing landscape of international relations, with all its bright spots and its dark spots.
What has happened in the years since Trocaire was established?   Obviously the end of the Cold War has brought new possibilities for development and the possibility of real consensus about what direction development should be following.  The Millennium Development Goals are perhaps one of the best examples of this.    I can well remember as little as three of four years before the promulgation of the Millennium Development Goals the clear opposition of a broad coalition of Western governments to the idea of any time-bound commitments regarding development on the part of the UN.  The change that took place in the period around the Jubilee Year 2000 was due in particular to the emergence of another factor which has been typical of a change in the culture of development policy, international public opinion driven by citizens and citizens’ organizations.  
The central role of education and especially education of girls has been identified in all international forums as critical. This applies not just to formal education but also to forms of empowerment which require education to release the God-given talent that is present in each person.  That empowerment must begin at the level of local communities which are so vital for personal, social and economic growth. Poverty is the inability to realise God given potential.  Fighting poverty is about enhancing the potential and dignity of each human being.
The end of the cold war has not resulted in the end of history nor in the emergence of a uni-polar world nor indeed in a safer world.  Life is not safe for the millions who live in poverty and suffer hunger around the world. The causes of such hunger are very often political and geo-political.  Huge economic interests are all too often at the roots of wars which shatter the lives and hopes of people already in a precarious situation for other reasons.  Every school day lost through war and armed conflict sets back the lives of so many for how long we do not know. Trocaire’s work in building up community in post conflict situations is perhaps more necessary today than at the moment of its establishment.
We look to the future of Trocaire, at a moment when the overall climate regarding development is changing.  Here in Ireland people remain generous, but times are tough and people have to make ends meet.  The phenomenon of aid fatigue is a reality. The aid world has become competitive.  Aid can appear to many as a business and in some case it may have become so.  Paradoxically critics of the global market are often among the most efficient users of market mechanisms in their own campaigns.   I remain uneasy when a natural disaster arises and find that our airwaves are cluttered by advertisements for rival aid projects.
Trocaire remains the aid organization of the Irish Episcopal Conference and therefore also retains a special place in the hearts of Irish Catholics.  Trocaire has rightly been careful about its role as a development organization and not a missionary organization.   This does not mean that Trocaire is any less an ecclesial reality, a way in which the Catholic community in Ireland witnesses to what is represents, the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.  So often when Jesus himself healed or lifted the burdens which weighed down on the excluded he did not the enlist the one who was healed into his followers, but sent them back into their villages and their ordinary lives even ordering them not to tell anyone what had happened.  But those who were cured knew that they had encountered in Jesus a unique love which had transformed them.
There is no conflict between charity and justice.  Charity is not hand outs.  Charity is the recognition that love is the very foundation of true human interaction.  Charity is about a self-giving that reflects how God revealed himself in Jesus Christ, not as one who clung to the outward symbols of power, even of his power as God.  Jesus revealed who God is, by loving.  There is no conflict between justice and true charity.  Justice is not about apportioning; it is about really loving, respecting and enriching the other.  It is about rejoicing, as with the father of the prodigal son, that humanity wounded and hurt and broken is restored to life as God wished it to be, in a celebration of fellowship.
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