Irish Bishop Warns of Religion Becoming Too Private

«Where God Seems to Be Missing but Not Missed»

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LIMERICK, Ireland, OCT. 3, 2004 ( Ireland is facing a corrosive notion that religion is a purely private matter, warns Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick.

In a pastoral letter recalling the 25th anniversary of John Paul II’s October 1979 visit to Limerick, the Irish bishop painted a sobering picture of the country.

«Life today is full of activity, images, sounds and information,» Bishop Murray wrote. «A great deal of what pours in on us seems to bear little relationship with our efforts to follow Christ. We often feel swamped, with no time to relax, to reflect or to ask the deeper questions, wilting ‘under the weight of so much knowledge.»

«We live a great part of our lives in contexts where God seems to be, as someone expressed it, ‘missing but not missed,'» he stated.

«We, the people of this generation, must recognize our Creator and Redeemer in this new context. Nobody else can do so for us,» the Limerick prelate said in the lengthy letter, posted at

«If we, who are believers, are not trying to recognize and reflect on how God’s presence and God’s promise are present in every part of our lives, why should we be surprised that the world is becoming secularized?» he asked.

«We are faced not with state atheism but with the false and destructive notion that religion is a purely private matter,» Bishop Murray lamented.

«In fact our whole life is based on a vision of the dignity, meaning and destiny of human life. We are, of course multi-cultural and multi-faith in a way that was not the case in the past,» he wrote. «But individuals and families and groups draw their fundamental motivation and commitment from their attitude to the mystery of human life and the mystery of God.

«The inspiration that makes people good citizens comes from deep convictions, usually religious convictions, about what life means and what its purpose is. How could one live life in an integrated way without any vision of what life is about?»

On a hopeful note, he observed: «It is not any isolated individual but the entire community of believers, with the great variety of gifts given to each one by the Spirit, (1 Corinthians 12) that can ‘insert the Gospel as a leaven into the reality of the world in which they live and work.'»

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