Trócaire 40th Anniversary Homily

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 Homily Notes of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, 11th November 2013

 “Trocaire is a fruit of the renewal of the Church in Ireland in the immediate aftermath of the Second Vatican Council.  At that time, and especially with the publication of Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical Populorum Progressio, the Bishops of Ireland felt that, alongside their support for missionary activity, there was a place for the Catholics of Ireland to have their own international development agency, like those which existed in many other European countries.

 Trocaire was an inspired idea and over the past 40 years it has it has lived up to its inspiration.  It has become a household name not just in Catholic homes, but as part of Irish national public discourse and indeed worldwide.  Every child knows what Trocaire is about.  The term Trocaire Box has earned a place, one could say, almost in The New Oxford Dictionary.  Trocaire has been a beacon of the care and mercy and support of the Irish Catholic community for development and disaster relief for forty year now.  Many people around the world place their hopes and trust in the work of Trocaire, as a reliable and honest partner.  

 Today, we give thanks to God – and we express our own personal recognition for all those who have worked to build up Trocaire to be the organisation that it is.  But Trocaire’s success is not due to in the first place them and I think that they will agree with me here.  Trocaire’s success is due to the reaction and the generosity of Irish Catholics who have risen again and again generously to support Trocaire in its every day work and in response to emergency appeals.

 Like every development agency Trocaire has to admit to failure.  I do not mean this in terms of blame, but in terms of the sad reality that despite best efforts and best practice the challenges of development still remain. Despite all analysis and identification of the concrete measures needed to be taken, for example, the UN Millennium Development Goals will not be universally attained.   

Pope Paul VI in Populorum Progressio spoke of:  “those peoples who are trying to escape the ravages of hunger, poverty, endemic disease and ignorance; of those who are seeking a larger share in the benefits of civilisation and a more active improvement of their human qualities; of those who are consciously striving for fuller growth”.  Sadly, these objectives are still to be achieved.  Sadly in many cases the only thing that has changed is the list of those countries still suffering ravages.  As progress is attained in one country, failure appears in another. 

Yet we know the priorities to be aimed at. To take just one example, Pope Paul stressed the centrality of education:  “basic education is the first objective for any nation seeking to develop itself. Lack of education is as serious as lack of food; the illiterate is a starved spirit. When someone learns how to read and write, he is equipped to do a job and to shoulder a profession, to develop self-confidence and realise that he can progress along with others”. Literacy is the “first and most basic tool for personal enrichment and social integration; and it is society’s most valuable tool for furthering development and economic progress.”

Trocaire is the development agency of Irish Catholics.  It remains the development agency of all Irish Catholics and must always work to win their support and respond to the specific hopes that Catholics place in their agency.   The original inspiration of Trocaire was, as I have said, for it to be specific arm the Irish Church for development, alongside the tradition of missionary and evangelical activities.  But it was soon evident that such a distinction was not always so simple.  Irish missionaries have had and have a remarkable tradition of responding to broad human needs, especially in education and health and community development.  Irish missionaries have at times been the strongest and most reliable partners of Trocaire and supporters of its aim.

A Catholic agency, on the other hand, even when it is working alongside others and is receiving aid from governments and international organisations can never renounce its Catholic identity and fail to bring to the debate on development the fundamental vision of the human person and the human family which springs from its Christian inspiration. 

Pope Benedict in his Encyclical Deus Caritas Est stressed the centrality to the activity of all Catholic organisations of witnessing to the love of Jesus Christ.   He noted that “This love does not simply offer people material help, but refreshment and care for their souls, something which often is even more necessary than material support. In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: the mistaken notion that man can live ‘by bread alone’ a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human”.

Trocaire has and I know will continue to bring that Christian dimension of its mission into the wider public square of development organisations and policies.  This evening we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, where we recall how Jesus died for us and rose again to life for our sakes.  The Eucharist represents a challenge for all Christians who work of development, whereby we are called – like Jesus – to give of our lives so that others can rise to the fullness of their humanity created in the image of God.  Our communion with Christ in the Eucharist establishes a new relationship of communion with all humankind, a pattern of sharing, fruit of our sonship of God in Jesus Christ which establishes our true relationship brothers and sisters in him.  May the Lord continue to inspire this spirit of self-giving generosity and love of humankind which has been the lifeblood of Trocaire for forty years.