31/05/05 Wristband Launch

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Speaking Notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin, Primate of Ireland
Holy Cross College, Clonliffe, 31st May 2005

 Our launch today is a remarkable testament to the extraordinary event that was the last illness and death of Pope John Paul II.  One of the distinguishing features of the ministry of John Paul was his unstinting effort to reach out to the whole world – he travelled to the most remote corners of our world, he continued to speak to the world even when his voice failed and in the face of death he refused to withdraw from engagement with the world and its people.  It is a sobering thought that in many ways it was in his final days of weakness and distress that he touched the hearts of many people who may not have been engaged by his active and vigorous years of preaching and ministry.

Above all, it would seem that it was his courage and dignity in the face of his obvious suffering that touched the heart of the world.  The words with which he began his papal ministry – Be not afraid – were made flesh in his final appearances.  The world found itself keeping vigil – the eyes of the world focussed on the window from which John Paul had so often spoken.  I believe that John Paul would have wished that the world would look beyond his personal drama and would ask itself about the source of his courage and strength.  The key to understanding John Paul and his remarkable life and death is to be found in his absolute faith in Jesus Christ and his certainty of the love of Christ for him and for all humanity.  ‘Be not afraid’ sums up his preaching and directs us to the ultimate source of his strength – Be not afraid in sickness, poverty or weakness – God is with you, He will never abandon you!

The witness of the dying Pope clearly touched people within and beyond the community of believers.  The project we launch today was born from the initiative of one of those who was touched by the Pope’s final journey.  I would like to congratulate Daniel Philbin Bowman on his initiative and perseverance in bringing this project to fruition.  I am delighted that, in Dublin Diocese, we have been able to support him and I would wish to thank Fr. Pat O’Donoghue for co-ordinating the involvement of the Diocese.
This project is rooted in the insight that the message of the Pope – Be not afraid – can be a consolation and a source of strength for the young people of our country.  Pope John Paul loved young people, he rejoiced in their company and he had great confidence in their capacity to build a better and more just world.  His message to young people facing examinations would have been one of encouragement – give your best, make the most of your talents and abilities but know that your worth and dignity is never dependent on success or failure.  The worth and dignity of a human being can never be determined by success or failure, by achievements or possessions.  It is not what we ‘have’ that matters to God but who we are – we have been made in his image and likeness and are loved by Him without limit or conditions.  As Pope Benedict XVI said at the inauguration of his ministry, “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.”
I would like to invite young people to support this initiative.  The wristbands can be a source of inspiration and encouragement for you at this time.  More importantly the wristbands can be an expression of your solidarity with and care for those who are especially vulnerable.  The proceeds of this project will be shared by the Irish Red Cross and the Turning the Tide of Suicide organization.  The work of the Red Cross in Darfur is a very concrete expression of our concern for the victims of the latest in a sad list of humanitarian disasters that have afflicted Africa – a continent that has always had a special place in the hearts of Irish people.  The terrible and sad reality of suicide among young people is one that we cannot as a society ignore and it is particularly appropriate that this project would support the work of an organization that is dedicated to researching and understanding the causes of suicide and working with the many agencies that seek to support those who are at risk.
Our focus today is rightly on the young.  I have a great belief in the energy and goodness of young people and in their capacity to change society for the better.  I have personally witnessed the great work done by young Irish students during our annual Diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes and I am always struck by their enormously generous capacity for care and compassion in looking after those entrusted to them. I know that that the same could be said of many other projects and of many other young people.  I would like to invite our young people to be especially conscious of older people in our society.  It is very much by virtue of their efforts and sacrifices that we enjoy the affluence we have today.  We must never forget them and we must be vigilant to ensure that they are always treated with the respect and dignity that is their right and our responsibility.  Moreover, those who are older, as we have seen with John Paul, often will have much to teach us about how to live lives that are wise and truly fruitful.  It is often in our dealings with the elderly that we learn the truth of the Jesus’ message that it is when we give that we receive.
Finally, I would like to thank all those from the worlds of sport, entertainment, media and business who have so generously supported this project by lending us their names, time and expertise.  I know that your support for this project will help the simple message of John Paul – Be not afraid – to reach new hearts and minds.