Ireland Facing a Crisis of Culture, Says Archbishop Brady

Believers Are «Disconnecting,» He Warns

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CORK, Ireland, MAY 5, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Ireland along with Europe is facing a crisis of culture rather than of faith, says Archbishop Sean Brady of Armagh.

At the opening of the two-day Irish Inter-Church Meeting, an ecumenical gathering, the Catholic primate of all Ireland addressed a prayer service to in the Church of the Holy Family, in Cork.

«We meet,» he said, «in the context of what Pope John Paul II described as the ‘loss of Europe’s Christian memory … a kind of practical agnosticism and religious indifference whereby many Europeans give the impression of living without spiritual roots.'»

«Certainly Europe, like Cork, like Ireland, is not lacking in prestigious symbols of the Christian presence,» Archbishop Brady said. «Yet, with the slow and steady advance of secularism, these symbols risk becoming a mere vestige of the past.

«Many people are no longer able to integrate the Gospel message into their daily experience; living one’s faith in Jesus has become increasingly difficult in a social and cultural setting in which that faith is constantly challenged.

«In Ireland today, as in much of Europe, it is sometimes easier to be identified as an agnostic than as a believer. At times the impression is given that unbelief, or hostility to faith, is self-explanatory, whereas belief needs a sort of legitimization which is neither obvious nor taken for granted.»

The Irish Inter-Church Meeting is the annual meeting of the Irish Council of Churches, the umbrella organization representing the majority of reformed traditions in Ireland, and the Catholic bishops’ conference.

The Catholic primate Archbishop Brady said: «Ireland, indeed Europe at the beginning of the third millennium, is facing a crisis of culture rather than of faith. Most people still believe. There are very few considered atheists in Ireland, indeed in the world.

«Yet there is increasing evidence of a loss of culture, evidence of a loss of sensitivity to the things of the spirit and the soul. You see it on our roads, you hear it in our language, and you read it in our papers. People are not so much rejecting as disconnecting from those things which give life to the soul.»

«Just observe the level of preoccupation in the lives of those around you, perhaps even in our own lives,» Archbishop Brady said. «We are in real danger of losing our balance. Apart from the occasional upward glance at a church spire or the jolt from a personal or global catastrophe, we are less inclined to ask eternal questions, to ponder the human, to contemplate the beautiful.

«And when we lose this capacity, we begin to measure the value of things by their usefulness and expediency rather than by their beauty or their being. Impatience, aggression and isolation begin to displace the culture of civility, courtesy and community.

«There is ample evidence that this displacement is already under way in Ireland. Yet few of our social commentators, apart from the faith communities, appear to be concerned about analyzing the underlying causes of this shift or acknowledging its potentially destructive consequences. Hence the importance of our current task.»

The Armagh archbishop offered a suggestion.

«Our task,» he said, «is to help those around us to see in the many prestigious symbols of Christianity which surround us in this city of culture, the symbols of new hope. That hope is expressed in our being here together, in the ecumenical journey we have made, in our continued commitment to the search for that unity for which Christ prayed.

«We are renewed in that hope by Pope Benedict’s identification of the reconstitution of the full and visible unity of the followers of Christ as the ‘primary commitment’ of his pontificate. ‘Manifestations of good sentiments are not enough,’ he said. ‘There must be concrete gestures that penetrate spirits and move consciences, leading each one to that interior conversion that is the assumption of all progress on the path of ecumenism.’ Our gathering here is precisely such a gesture.»

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