LAUNCH OF THE EXHIBITION OF THE PAPERS OF FATHER FRANCIS GLEESON
Words of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin
Holy Cross College, Clonliffe, 27th April 2015
“Words of mine are superfluous. The readings we have heard from Father Gleeson’s writings speak for themselves. They speak of the horrors of war – and it is interesting to remember that Father Gleeson’s first experience as an Army Chaplain was something which overwhelmed him and he preferred to return home. His words and this exhibition speak to us both the horrors of war and of the extraordinary face of human solidarity that appears amid all the bloodshed and violence, the fear and the solitude that belong to any war.
There is no way that we can or should ever glorify war. But that does not mean that we should overlook the courage, the bonds of caring and solidarity that take place in war. War is always an admission of the failure of politics, but at times the hand of an aggressor must be stopped and we owe a deep debt of gratitude and recognition to those who find themselves taking on the burden of war and especially those who give their lives for our liberty.
I think of the words of two Popes: Pope Benedict XV, at the height of the First World War did nothing for friendship with either side when he called the war “un inutile strage”, “an useless massacre” and I think of the cry of Pope Paul VI at the United Nations: “ Jamais plus le guerre”, “War never again”.
We should never give in to feeling that war is ever inevitable. War never ends in simple victory. War leaves behind trauma in the hearts of those who experience it in the front line. War leaves trauma in the relatives of those who die. War – especially the First World War – took far too many of the lives of young men and women who would have been a new generation full of hope. Father Gleeson was an extraordinary man and it is wonderful that he should be remembered. He had had an overwhelming experience of the horrors of war during his first period as an army chaplain, but his feeling that as a priest he could bring comfort to the young men involved in war became the stronger emotion and he returned without fear to the battlefield.
Who was Father Gleeson? Go down to Meath Street in Dublin’s south inner city and there are plenty of men and women still alive who remember him in his later years as Parish Priest in that part of what was one of the poorest parts of Dublin. Francis Gleeson was fundamentally a priest, a priest with extraordinary human qualities, a humble priest whose faith enabled him to do great things in war and in peace.
I would like to thank you for your presence here this evening. I would like especially to thank Noelle Dowling, our Diocesan Archivist, who takes extraordinary care of these archives which are full of hidden treasures. But Noelle is someone who has a passion for archives and above all a passion for so many extraordinary lives that lie hidden amidst the duty papers. I do not know Noelle if you have favourites, but if you have, I know that Father Gleeson must be well in the top ten. Once you discovered this figure there was no holding you back and I am sure that you feel truly proud of this gathering this evening. Thank you Noelle, and the only question that remains is: Who is next on your list?” ENDS