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Engage in debate, says Clarke

17 May 2013


First address: the Arch­bishop of Armagh speaks at the opening of the Synod in Armagh, on Thursday of last week

First address: the Arch­bishop of Armagh speaks at the opening of the Synod in Armagh, on Thursday of last week

THE Church of Ireland must, as a spiritual imperative, make a sensible contribution to end-of-life issues currently being debated in Irish society, the Archbishop of Armagh, The Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, told the opening of the General Synod on Thursday of last week.

His remarks come at a time when the Irish government is preparing to legislate for limited abortion, and the Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by a terminally ill woman to allow her partner to assist her to end her life.

"If, as Christians, we believe that all life is a gift of God, from its earliest beginnings to its earthly end, how are we to treat that gift even in times of trauma and pain?" he said. "Let us not wait until state legislation has already decided on such matters before we make a response. By then it will be too late.

"It is not merely a matter of making statements on behalf of the Church, or even on one's own behalf. Every responsible Christian disciple should be ready to confront those who, whether in political life or not, would treat human life not as a gift but as a commodity."

Afterwards, at a press conference, Dr Clarke cautioned politicians to deal with the issue of maternal suicidal ideation as grounds for abortion with great care. The Irish Supreme Court had called for such provision in a ruling 21 years ago, but no legislation on abortion has until now been forthcoming.

Speaking about the terminally ill, he said that everyone had a part to play in supporting those working with the dying, and their families.

The Primate also addressed the issue of children living in poverty throughout the island, noting that Barnardo's identified about 100,000 children in this category in Northern Ireland, while in the Republic, children living in "consistent poverty" had risen by 0.5 per cent in one year.

Poverty, he said, "damages every aspect of any child's life, having massive consequences . . . on their health, their educational outcomes, and the simple chance to 'make a life' for themselves".

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