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Ireland must handle the past with care, says Archbishop of Armagh Richard Clarke

20 May 2016

Church of Ireland Press Office

Attentive: members of the General Synod, held at the Marine Hotel, Dún Laoghaire, in Co. Dublin, last week

Attentive: members of the General Synod, held at the Marine Hotel, Dún Laoghaire, in Co. Dublin, last week

THE complexity of interpreting the past and its influence could not be ignored by the people of Ireland in dealing with the present and shap­ing the future, the Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Rich­ard Clarke, said in his opening address to the General Synod on Thursday, in Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin. This was par­ticu­larly true of the Church of Ireland.

”On this island, we are presently in the midst of what has be­­come widely known as ‘a decade of centenaries’, running from the Ulster Covenant of 1912 through to the civil war in the then Irish Free State, which reached its conclusion in May 1923.

”This year, 2016, is central to these commemorations as the cen­tenaries of both the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme fall within weeks of one another. They have both moved into history and historical interpretation as crucially symbolic events in the modern history of our island,” he said.

Dr Clarke, who, with his Roman Catholic counterpart, Dr Eamon Martin, is soon to lead a group of young people of both denomina­tions on a three-day historic tour from Dublin to the battlefields of the Somme, said that neither event should be inter­preted through the lens of a single narrative.

”The real gift is surely to recognise the shaping that we have received by our past . . . to inter­rogate it, and to decide upon how this may, and should, influence our future; so that we, in our generation, may contribute to the shaping of a wider future.”

He warned that a British exit from the EU would be problematic for Ireland. “There can be no doubt that life on this island, and hence in our Church, may be rendered very difficult if the referendum in June results in the United Kingdom moving outside the European Union.”

The Archbishop also called on European nations to “face up to the respons­ibilities” for those fleeing to Europe from conflict in the Middle East. “It can never be permissible for Christians to im­­agine that refugees should not be ‘our problem’. . .

“God does not distin­guish, in his love, between those we think of as ‘like us’ and those we think of as somehow different. We cannot turn our backs on dire need before our eyes; we are all made, equally, in the image of God.”

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