17/06/05 Crosscare Website Launch & Inauguration of “Celebrating Difference”

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Inauguration of “Celebrating Difference”
Speaking Notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin, Primate of Ireland
Saint Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, 17th June 2005
It is not so long since we launched the Crosscare Annual Report and here we are together again to launch a new website.
When I was asked to launch the website I imagined I would be launching an upgraded and brighter presentation which would help make the work of Crosscare better known and perhaps ensure that addresses and centres be more readily accessible. So I was puzzled that the launch would be in Saint Patrick’s College.
All of that says something of my idea of websites and of the purpose of information technology.
As you know I lived in the Vatican for many years and even with my limited knowledge of Information Technology I realised that the Vatican was not the best place to be to develop an IT culture.  This had nothing to do with theological narrow-mindedness or worries of IT being used for less than desirable purposes.  It was simply a question of a culture that was used to the written and printed world for so many centuries,  having difficulties in adapting to the virtual world.   If you have all around you manuscripts from the time of Christ, collections of beautifully illustrated hand-written tomes and printed works since the beginning of the printing press, then you are not going to be moved by an e-mail.
The curious thing is that the art of manuscripts and the early printing works were revolutionary in their time.  The Vatican collections show how quickly the Church recognised these new ways of communicating as instruments for evangelising.   Think also of the works of art and stained glass – or in our Irish context the illuminated Celtic crosses – all of which were innovative ways of bringing the good news into popular culture and the mentality of people.
Many Church people today are slow about IT – some older priests and indeed some younger priests seem proud to say that they will never master the techniques.  But they have nothing to be proud of.  Information technology is a true gift of God to our times, mediated though the creative genius of men and women.  Not to use it, to refuse to understand it, is to reject a gift of God.
I am pleased to see that Crosscare has no doubts about the use of the Internet and has today shown us how it can be used innovatively.  Crosscare is the social service arm of the Dublin Diocese.  Its services are inventive and reach a wide range of people, especially in the Dublin area of the diocese.  I would like to see a greater outreach in future especially to the towns of Counties Wicklow and Kildare, which are in the diocese, and are undergoing great social change.
This new Internet site is not just about making knowledge about services more accessible. It is a form of catechesis of Christian charity, of Christian love.  It helps young people see something of the needs that exist in the diocese; what the words poverty and disadvantage actually mean.   It helps them appreciate that it is possible to do something. Over the years volunteers have brought their contribution to enabling the less fortunate come to a fuller realization of their talents and enable them to be the people that God wanted them to be. The Internet can be a useful means of creating among young people a sense of social responsibility.   The “Celebrating Difference” resource is a perfect example of this.
In these days I have been reflecting on a phrase used by Pope Benedict XVI in his inaugural address as Pope “we are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary”.   The task of Christian charity, the task of social service is to ensure that the special thought of God that is in each person is enhanced to the full.
The theme of difference is one that is stressed in this website in particular.  Ireland, in the future will be a society in which difference will be more evident and in which, hopefully, difference will be seen as enriching.  That will only happen if we recognise the dignity and originality of each person.  Each of them represents a special thought of God and should be treated with respect, welcome and care.
This desire to be welcoming and to recognise the talents and difference of each person should be a special hallmark of the Catholic schools in this diocese.  They are already showing that in the manner in which children from over 100 hundred countries are welcomed into our Catholic schools.  I have initiated a dialogue with leaders of other faiths in Dublin to ensure that where children of other faiths are present in Catholic schools their needs are attended to and are never the object of discrimination or marginalization.  We have the possibility of leading the way, rather than waiting to react to tensions should they occur.  What happens in the schools will help other initiatives also within Irish society.
There is still a long way to go.  I encounter a great deal of hurt, for example, within the Travelling community, where many feel that their culture and traditions are not fully recognised and respected.  Perhaps most people, like myself initially, would feel that Ireland had made much progress in integrating our Travellers.  But when it is a question of hurt, it is always better to listen more carefully to the person or group that is hurting, rather than think that they should accept our feelings and verdict.  This may be demanding, but “charity is patient”!
I hope that this website will generate among young people a greater sensitivity to the needs and the specific identity of  others in our society.  In recognising difference, we best recognise the unity of humankind.  Concepts like “race” are inventions of fake science, concocted to exploit outward difference to justify dominance.  Paradoxically, it is only is when we recognise the unity of humankind that we can then recognise that difference is enrichment.
Church, the Vatican Council reminds us, is a “sign and instrument of communion with God and of unity among all humankind”. The more Church reflects that unity, the more it is the Church of Jesus Christ.  I thank Crosscare for this further example of being present in Dublin society not just with services but with ideas and leadership.