ECUMENICAL SERVICE OF REMEMBRANCE
FOR THE VICTIMS OF THE ATTACKS IN BRUSSELS (22 MARCH 2016)
Sacred Heart Church, Donnybrook, 19th April 2016
Speaking and Homily notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin
Late last year I led a delegation of Irish Catholic Bishops to Brussels to meet with representatives of the European Commission and the European Parliament. It was a wonderful occasion for us to reflect on what Europe means but also to experience the hospitality which the citizens of Brussels day after day offer to men and women of all faiths, cultures and political persuasions who come to their city seeking to work for a better Europe.
Yes, Brussels like any large modern cosmopolitan city has its own tensions and inequalities. But Brussels has also taken on this special role of welcome and encounter and its citizens, drawing from their own European heritage, have reshaped and transformed their culture into a modern culture of welcome.
The horror of the events of 22nd March stunned us all. An ordinary day was breaking in Brussels as people were arriving and departing at an airport; an ordinary day had begun for many peacefully travelling on the metro to school and to work. Then the unimaginable took place. A series of acts of blind and meaningless and merciless violence took lives, injured and traumatised many and tore into the hearts of so many families and friendships, and of the proud nation of the Belgians and indeed of Europe
We remember today all those who died and were injured on that morning. We remember those who still suffer their wounds and trauma. We remember the bereaved and the inconsolable. We remember the city of Brussels, its people and its institutions and we remember Europe: that project of hope of which we wish to be a part.
The reading we have heard was written at a time of persecution of the believing community in Rome. Saint Paul reminds the troubled Christians of Rome the salvation that comes to them from Jesus Christ comes as a message of hope.
Is hope still possible in the face of senseless violence? The global culture in which we live is marked by great ambiguities: the ambiguities of our own hearts as well as the ambiguities which spring from the presence of sin and evil around us. We have to recognise that signs of evil are perhaps stronger today than at other times in the recent past and that modernity and progress have not eliminated senseless violence. Violence continues day after day worldwide. We cannot overlook violence anywhere.
The Christian is still called to endurance in his or her belief, never losing hope despite the evil that exists all around them. The history of the righteous in this world has always been a history of righteous who suffer because of their righteousness. The victory of hope over suffering and evil is not denial of suffering and evil. Hope is not just a vague emotion or a simple personal aspiration. God’s dealing with his people shows that hope is the one thing that enlightens the human family as we face the ever repeating emergence of inhuman forces within humankind.
Christian hope is not an empty formula or a magic answer to tempt us to hide away from the fact that evil exists. Our remembrance of 22nd March must be one which remembers and shares a grief that is still raw. We do not hide our righteous anger at the extent of such inhumanity. We are called however to remember in such a way that we profess our faith in a God who never speaks a final word in our time, but one who opens a new future and challenges us to be agents of that new future.
“Nothing can come between us and the love of God”. Threats and violence and attack cannot take away from us the hope which is rooted in the love revealed in Jesus Christ.
Senseless violence is the opposite of hope. It is a sign of hopelessness; it is not a sign of idealism, but a sign of a death which steals hope and tarnishes ideals. It is sign of disregard for that true humanity which recognises all of us as brothers and sisters. No one should use the name of God to try to justify violence. Those who attempt to place a religious tag on their violence betray their religion, whether Christian, Jewish or Islamic.
Violence in its many forms is at the root of so much of the suffering and hopelessness that marks our society. Violence only generates further violence. The violent man may think he is strong. But in all conflicts it is, in the long run, men and women of peace and determination and who rise above prejudice and conquer.
In his recent document in the family, Pope Francis quotes Martin Luther King concerning violence in society: “Somewhere somebody must have a little sense; and that is the strong person. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil”.
The chain of hate and the chain of evil are not unbreakable. Peace will be attained only by the peaceful, by people who respond to escalating violence with a renewed passion for peace. The attacks in Brussels were attacks on hope. The European vision is a vision about the embodiment of hope and unity. A culture of hope in Europe today must be one which strips itself of many of its ambiguities. Failure to welcome and recognise the unity of the human family would be a betrayal of the European vision of hope.
We must stand together rejecting a culture of violence. We must stand together uncompromisingly rejecting the squalid international trade in the weapons of violence. We must stand together uncompromisingly protecting young people from being misled by a false idealisation of violence. We must stand together uncompromisingly rejecting any compromise of our fundamental values of welcome and unity and opportunity for all.
This evening, as Irish or Belgian, as Christians, or Jews, or Muslims, as men or women, believers or not, aware that we all share a common humanity, we commit ourselves to fostering a culture of peace.
22nd March 2016: never again. ENDS