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New Primate uses his first statement to pay tribute to brave health workers


Praise: Archbishop John McDowell said health staff deserved thanks

Praise: Archbishop John McDowell said health staff deserved thanks

Praise: Archbishop John McDowell said health staff deserved thanks

Archbishop John McDowell, the new Church of Ireland Primate, has praised hospital and care workers for their "bravery and compassion".

In his first statement as Primate, Archbishop McDowell, who took office yesterday, said: "I want to give heartfelt thanks for the people, especially those working in hospitals and care homes, who have put the saving of the lives of others above the protection of their own.

"Some have paid the ultimate price for their bravery and compassion, so if you are reading this, perhaps you would stop for a moment and say a 'thank you' for all they have done."

The Archbishop would have presided at the Church's annual General Synod at Croke Park next month, but the event has been cancelled for the year because of the coronavirus.

He said the meeting "would have offered an opportunity to acknowledge the role which the GAA plays in every corner of this island - surely the most remarkable and influential cultural and sporting organisation in Ireland today".

He continued: "Also, perhaps it would have been appropriate in the setting of Croke Park, and given the current decade of centenaries, to have reflected on the tragic loss of life which was occurring all over Ireland in 1920, to have listened and spoken about the acknowledgements needed and the lessons learned."

He said that the May General Synod would have coincided with the 75th anniversary of victory in Europe.

Archbishop McDowell said that the Church of Ireland had "the potential to model and in some instances create a witness of deep-seated unity that transcends political, social and generational categories".

He said that there was some truth in the observation that in Ireland, "We listen to others, especially to those with whom we differ, in order to gather ammunition for criticism. We do not listen to hear".

"Had the plans for the General Synod gone ahead, we would have been presented as a Church with many opportunities to explain and to listen, to speak and to hear," he added.

"We all want peace, but how do we obtain it? If someone was to ask me that same question about Ireland, or the world that will emerge from the profound insecurity caused by the coronavirus, I am not sure I have the answer."

The Archbishop said that the work of reconciliation was "always unfinished, with a need to begin anew every day".

"How blessed we would be if we, as a Church, amid such unprecedented times, can show ourselves worthy of our calling as peacemakers and reconcilers, even if it is costly," he added.

The new Primate was welcomed to Armagh by the Catholic Primate, Archbishop Eamon Martin.

He said that although they were unable to meet in person, they had discussed common issues, including the implications of Covid-19.

Archbishop Martin added: "I look forward to working closely with Archbishop McDowell in the spirit of our patron, Saint Patrick, and in the service of the Gospel and common good."

Because of the coronavirus crisis, there are no plans as yet for Archbishop McDowell's official installation.

Archbishop McDowell said it was "an inconvenience and disappointment" not to have the installation service in its traditional form, "but nothing like so severe as the difficulties that many other people are enduring at present".

He said that he had been communicating on social media with "far more people than could have been accommodated in Armagh Cathedral, and many in the Armagh Diocesan family have been in touch to welcome me in whatever way they could".

Presbyterian Moderator Dr William Henry offered his "heartfelt congratulations" to the new Primate.

"He can be assured of my prayers for the future and those of the Church family," he said.

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