(July 31, 2020) I am happy to have this occasion to wish the entire Muslim community in Ireland and especially those gathered here in Croke Park: Eid Mubarak, warm wishes and blessings, Comhghairdeas.
This is a very propitious moment for the Muslim community in Ireland. On the one hand, we are all saddened not to be able to host large celebrations in our own places of worship due to the current coronavirus measures. On the other hand, there is something special at having this Muslim celebration here in Croke Park. Croke Park is a special gathering place for Ireland and for all Irish.
Croke Park has a special place in the history of Ireland. It is a place associated with significant, joyful but also very tragic moments of our history. It is a place today where distinguished visitors come. There is an interesting museum here. However, we can also truly say that the entire Croke Park Stadium is a living Museum still being created year by year.
I think of the visit of Queen Elizabeth who came here as part of a visit of reconciliation in Ireland. I had the honour to accompany Pope Francis here on his visit to Ireland. It is a place for great sporting occasions and lesser-known local events. I think of an annual dinner for several hundred elderly of this part of the city each Christmas. There is a Conference Centre focussing each day of the year on the economic, cultural and educational needs of the future of Ireland.
Today marks a new chapter in the history of Croke Park. Today our celebration is a gesture of recognising publicly the place of the Muslim community as an integral part of the family of the Irish and to recognise the contribution of your Muslim community to the Ireland of today and to the Ireland of tomorrow.
I am honoured that you have kindly asked me as Archbishop of Dublin, the leader of the Catholic Community of believers in Jesus Christ here in Dublin, to be part of your celebration. I feel very much at home with you. I am happy to have been able over the years to be guest at so many Muslim celebrations and to have had Muslim leaders share in Christian celebrations.
The Message of the Pope Francis’ Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue for this year’s Ramadan, stressed how the month of Ramadan is “so central in your religion and therefore dear to you at personal, familial and social levels. It is a time for spiritual healing and growth, of sharing with the poor, of strengthening bonds with relatives and friends”
When Pope Francis visited a Mosque in Baku, Azerbaijan, on October 2016, he stressed that “Meeting one another in fraternal friendship in a place of prayer is a powerful sign, one that shows the harmony which religions can build together, based on personal relations and on the good will of those responsible”.
This morning I share the joy of Muslim families who enrich Ireland and Irish culture through their hard work and creativity. I think of the manner in which the younger generations of Muslims in Ireland can today proudly profess their faith and shape the place of Islam in Irish culture. I am not sure whether your children wish to be called Irish Muslims or Muslim Irish: the truth is that they are fully both and proudly so. We all need and we all welcome their contribution.
The Vatican Message to which I refereed earlier focussed especially on places of worship. It recalled that “places of worship are spaces for spiritual hospitality, where believers of other religions also join for some special ceremonies like weddings, funerals and feasts of the community. While they participate in the events in silence and with due respect to the religious observances of the believers of that particular religion, they also savour the hospitality accorded to them. Such practice is a privileged witness to what unites believers, without diminishing or denying what distinguishes them”. I am humbled by the spiritual hospitality I receive here this morning and I thank you.
The Document on “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, in Abu Dhabi, on 4 February 2019, said: “The protection of places of worship – synagogues, churches and mosques – is a duty guaranteed by religions, human values, laws and international agreements”. They must be respected.
Places of worship are important. However places of worship are more than just bricks and mortar. More fundamental is the witness that is fostered and grows within them and emerges from them in today’s world to the God who is full of mercy and compassion. Christians, Muslims and Jews share a common responsibility to witness to what is demanded today from a true believer in the God who is full of mercy and compassion.
Our places of worship must be places where intolerance is shunned and respect is learned. Our hearts must be hearts that are open to embrace and not reject. Our hands must be hands that support and help and not push aside. Our mentality must be a mentality that is inspired by compassion and not judgementalism.
Our world can be so harsh. It needs mercy and compassion. Our city here in Dublin is tarnished by violence. There is racism and intolerance. We watch as poverty and precariousness grow and new insecurity strikes many families. Our world needs a common witness to what mercy and compassion mean. In a world where many have difficulty in finding faith in God, we all have to examine our individual conscience as to how we have failed to show convincingly in our own lives that God is not just an abstract distant figure, but the One who teaches us all what mercy and compassion mean.
In the current coronavirus crises, all of us owe a debt of gratitude to our health care workers and we know that those health care workers represent the best of our Irish, new and old, believers of all faiths, who have worked together tirelessly and with true care and compassion.
For Muslims, Ramadan is a moment of spiritual healing and growth, of sharing with the poor, of strengthening bonds with relatives and friends. We join in your celebration and we know that together we can become a powerful force in the Ireland of tomorrow for spiritual growth, for sharing with the poor and building friendship.
These are the basis of lasting peace in our society and in our world. I go away today encouraged and hopeful for what we can achieve together with the help of the God who is full of mercy and compassion.
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