Bishop calls on Limerick to ‘reflect on migration’ in St Patrick’s Day address

Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy. Photo: Keith Wiseman.

BISHOP of Limerick Brendan Leahy issued a plea for unity in his St Patrick’s Day address, saying that Ireland “cannot be allowed to become a place where the warm fire of hospitality is being replaced by raging fires of division, distrust, and disdain”.

In his homily at the St Patrick’s Day Mass at Sarsfield Barracks, Bishop Leahy said St Patrick should be a figure that helps Irish people “reflect on migration in both its difficult aspects and its positive possibilities”.

The outspoken bishop also warned of those taking advantage of growing public debate around inward migration to stir tensions and riots.

“We can’t forget that some of our people abroad experience hardship,” Bishop Leahy said.

“The migrant St Patrick puts before us the question: how are we today treating those who have migrated to our land? Some came here out of choice. Others have come escaping from war, persecution, or exploitation. For the most part, they are ordinary human beings like us – many indeed very talented people who reached good careers before they had to flee.”

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Bishop Leahy continued that “the majority of people in Ireland are open and welcoming” and that “polling has shown that the Irish public remains one of the most positive in the EU27 regarding their attitudes towards immigration”.

“There are undoubtedly bona fide concerns within some communities about the lack of services and supports to support people coming here, or the negative impact on local livelihoods when all hotel beds are taken up. But there are undoubtedly also those who are taking advantage of this, leading to stirring tensions, riots, murmurings, social media campaigns.

“As a result, migrants who for many years were made very welcome here might now feel Ireland is becoming inhospitable, far from a place of a thousand welcomes. Instead, to some, this is a place where the warm fire of hospitality is being replaced by raging fires of division, distrust, and disdain stoked by a few who can so easily gain a hold on the many.

“Instead of welcoming and protecting, promoting and integrating refugees, we witness outbursts of racism and violence, hatred and misinformation.”

It’s important, he said, that on Ireland’s national day, people commend parishes and small faith communities and initiatives in Limerick that promote encounters between local native Irish communities and those who are new to the area.

“Welcoming communities are key to effective integration,” Bishop Leahy said.

“The ‘New Irish’, as many are rightly calling them, are making a positive and vibrant contribution to the life of the parish and in the process are opening new cultural experiences for Irish Catholics. They are evident in the wider society in many services and projects.

“It is sometimes said Ireland is full and that we cannot take more migrants. But that is not true. We know there are many areas where workers are needed in Ireland.”

Concluding his address, Bishop Leahy said that “above all, St Patrick’s Day is a day to call on God to create a new heart for us and put a steadfast spirit, the spirit of care, of outreach, of love”.

“There’s always need for conversion. We can never sit on the laurels. We need to be steadfast in our resolve, inspired by the example of St Patrick, the migrant who made such a difference, the one without whom we would not be here today.”