26/11/04 Launch of Crosscare’s Cedar Programme -Address of Archbishop Martin

26/11/04 Launch of Crosscare’s Cedar Programme -Address of Archbishop Martin

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Speaking Notes of
 Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin

Saint Vincent’s Centre for Deaf People
26th November 2004

Participation is of the essence of liturgy.   Second Vatican Council stressed the significance of the active participation of all in the liturgy as one of the major elements in the liturgical reform that the Council Fathers wished to launch in the Church.   “Full conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations… is demanded by th3 very nature of the liturgy” (Constitution of the Liturgy, #14).


The subsequent revisions of the Roman Liturgy have stressed the same concept of participation.  The introduction of the vernacular languages, the encouragement of participative music, the emphasis of the role of different actors in the celebration of the Eucharist, the stress on the proclamation of the word of God, even down to a stress on common gestures.  This emphasis on participation stressed the importance of the Eucharist being celebrated within community and of the Eucharist forming community, forming the Church as the one body of Jesus Christ, where we are brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit.


The progress in the liturgical renewal was one of the remarkable achievements of the heritage of Vatican II.  It is remarkable that it was possible to carry out such a broad renewal of texts and norms already within the Pontificate of Pope Paul VI.


It is today more evident where we have been less successful.  One is that of ensuring more adequately the facilitation of persons with disabilities to be able to fully participate in the liturgical life of the Church and in broader participation within Church structures.


The disadvantage suffered by persons with disabilities was not just not attended to; it never even crossed our minds.   I think that we all have an obligation to apologise for our lack of sensitivity, for our inability to listen.  The fact that the voice of the excluded rarely attains its proper volume level is still no excuse.  A listening Church must be fine tuned into the voices which normally are not heard.

I am very happy then to be able to formally launch Crosscare’s Cedar Programme which aims at facilitating the inclusion of people with disabilities in the life of the Church.

Like so many of Crosscare’s activities, the Cedar Programme is eminently practical.  It began by devising an audit process which would take a factual look at the situation in a number of pilot projects in different parishes.  It has identified where the fault lines are and it is now offering a concrete programme to help parishes to respond to the challenges.

Crosscare has a great talent, which perhaps is also its greatest weakness.  It is practical.  It gets down to doing things, day after day, seeking to improve people’s capacity to get on with their own lives.  That is a great talent.  Unfortunately, this means that Crosscare is all too often too busy to go around blowing its trumpet in the market place of public opinion.   The Crosscare story needs to be better known.

Crosscare however is correct in its approach.  People will be impressed with campaigns for a short time.  The long term credibility of Crosscare lies in what it does, in its practical approach and in its dependability.  It is not just an organization which does things for people, but much more an organizations which help people be themselves and in and be in charge of their own lives.   The Cedar Programme is not just about access; that is the first step.  It is about full participation.   

But this is not an occasion to pat ourselves on our backs.  We have to deliver.   It is so easy to talk about inclusion, and then carry on with business as usual.   I have to admit that I could not have hosted the meeting in Archbishop’s House because it is not wheelchair accessible.   I have to admit that when I wrote to all parishes about Parish Pastoral Councils, I failed to clearly stress the need to include people with disabilities.   I have just established Diocesan Commissions on the Liturgy and on Art and Architecture, and I did not think of verifying if the interests of people with disability were covered.

 I want to be the first to admit that I have not fully brought my mind set around to thinking fully in terms of making Church facilities and ministries accessible for people with disabilities.   I will try to make good this lack as soon as I can, and I willingly open my doors and the doors of every diocesan office and agency to the audit facility of the Cedar Programme.


I invite every Parish to do the same and I am prepared to stand before you this time next year to report back on progress.  

Jesus always had a special place for the sick and those who were bound in the spirit.  In every village he went to he healed the sick and he freed people from the bonds which made them less free.  Our task is to follow in his way and enable people who are limited in any way through disability to realise their capacity fully and in freedom, so that they can be genuinely active participants in the life of the Church and of society, as persons who have unique and irreplaceable dignity and talent.