Address by John Morgan, KSG, President,
At the Annual Dinner in the Mess, McKee Barracks, on Friday 18 October 2019.
When papal dames & knight sget together with their friends on an evening like this it is appropriate that we share some words on key current themes concerning the Holy Father in his work and mission around this time which has direct relevance for us here. I have selected two such themes .
Firstly, let’s remind ourselves of the importance he has placed on this month-October 2019. 2 years ago he decided to establish this month as “an extraordinary missionary month”—on the centenary of the issue in 1919 of a significant apostolic letter from the then pope—Benedict xv—on the church’s mission and missionary activity after the end of the 1st World War (maximum illud).
Saying that not one of us, as Christians, is excluded from the Church’s mission, Pope Francis wants this month to jolt us and motivate us to be active in doing good.
Witness is a key word he uses - by living as witnesses we become missionary.-because it is our lives that speak. He says that there can be evil in not living as witnesses—in not having done good---that is the sin of omission. Omission is the opposite to mission and he has suggested an examination on the issue of omission that we should undertake/ meditate on/pray about this month.
Here are some of the questions he poses;
- rather than spreading joy, do we think of ourselves as victims or think that no one loves or understands us;
- do I yield to the resignation “I can’t do this, I’m not up for it” and ask how can that be-God has given me talents-do I think myself so poor that I can’t enrich a single person;
- do I complain that everything is going from bad to worse in the world and the Church—and so become a slave to the fears that immobilise us when we let ourselves be paralyzed by thinking that “things never change”;
- do I live life as a burden and not as a gift; when I put myself and my concerns at the centre and not our brothers and sisters who are waiting to be loved
He reminds us that as Christians we know thru’ prayer that the secret of possessing life is to give it away so, in his words, to live by omission is to deny our vocation.
All this feeds into his vision of the Church as a church on the go, that a missionary church doesn’t waste time lamenting things that go wrong or the values of the time now past but is a church that longs to be the salt of the earth and a leaven in our world.
I believe that there is rich food for thought here-adding the rider Pope Francis will always add—that we cannot achieve our desires without prayer and a developed personal relationship with Christ.
The second theme I will touch on, also associated with the word witness is support for our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters worldwide—and in our case, as an Association, this has taken the form of an active, prayerful interest for those persecuted particularly in war-torn Iraq and Syria.
Cardinal Parolin Secretary of State of the Holy See spoke at the U.N. General Assembly on 27 September-3 weeks ago today—on rebuilding lives and communities in an effort to ensuring a future for persecuted Christians. He related how he had travelled to the Nineveh plains in Iraq to celebrate last Christmas with local Christians, bringing greetings and blessings to them from Pope Francis----as a personal reminder of the fact that they are in his daily thoughts and prayers he sought to encourage them in their efforts to rebuild their lives, homes and communities after the unspeakable atrocities wrought by ISIS -particularly surrounding July 2014 when Mosul was captured and the Christian families in the plains of Nineveh---a cradle of Christianity for 2000 years—were driven from their homes and many, not yielding to ISIS demands and/or for answering to be Christian were summarily executed. Witness is a word with the same root as martyr.
As I recall upwards of 200,000 Christians were living in that general region at the time. many who escaped and exiled have now been able to return to their homes—or what’s left of them—to begin the arduous process-not just of reconstructing buildings but recreating the social fabric rent asunder by hatred, betrayal and brutality.
Led by Prof Vincent McBrierty in his presidential term we engaged extensively with public representatives, our bishops and Trocaire to make fully aware the plight of the suffering ones. One fruit of this particular period was the decision to institute an annual mass for persecuted Christians, particularly for those of Iraq & Syria---which we hold annually on a February Sunday in our chaplain, Monsignor Eoin’s parish in Mulhuddart. Pope Francis has been oh so consistent in frequently talking to us about the sufferings of persecuted Christians and urging us to keep them in mind, particularly thru’ prayer and if possible by contributing towards resources to assist their families and communities. This is a reminder this evening that we, in our own way, should follow suit.
In the context of these remarks I wish to take the opportunity of welcoming among us this evening Fr. Ofram Ozaan, a priest of the Syriac Othodox Church, currently ministering to his flock in London and likely to return to Syria soon. He is a guest of Tariq and his wife Shaftha— Tariq as many of you know is a Knight Commander of St. Gregory, from Mosul and now living in Dublin. Speaking for all of us we are delighted Fr. Afram that you can be with us tonight and be assured that the thoughts and prayers of all of us go with you and to your Syriac community.
In conclusion may I thank my council colleagues for overseeing the arrangements for this evening. We send our prayers and best wishes for a return to health of Jim McDonald our dear chancellor of long standing and thank Tom Lynch for taking Jim’s role for this evening.
Also , I can’t let the occasion pass without congratulating John McCaffery on being conferred with the papal order of Knight Grand Cross of St. Gregory by Pope Francis-the highest class of membership in the Order of St. Gregory the Great.. Congrats. John from all of us as we share in the honour and joy this bestowal is for you and your family.