Belfast Telegraph

Archbishop Martin a welcoming man who has a passion for family, GAA and music

By Alf McCreary

The Catholic Primate of Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh walked into the reception room of his house Ara Coeli and shook my hand, saying: "Welcome to Armagh, my name is Eamon Martin."

He was taller and more informal than I had expected and very different in the flesh from his more formal television image. In private, he is an engaging and friendly man who makes you immediately feel at ease.

He has a quick sense of humour and a hearty laugh.

He settled in to his favourite chair in a corner of the reception room and talked openly about himself as well as the many major issues of Church and State with which he has to deal.

Eamon Martin was born in Derry in 1961 and comes from a family of 12 children - six boys and six girls. His father John James Martin died in 2006 and his mother Catherine (nee Crossan) passed away recently.

He was educated at St Columb's College and ordained a priest by the former Bishop of Derry Edward Daly in 1987.

He was initially a teacher and became head of St Columb's in 2000.

He held a number of important positions in the wider Church and became diocesan administrator of the Derry Diocese in 2011.

In January 2013 he was elevated from the role of monsignor in Derry to become the coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh, a promotion which surprised him as much as it did everyone else. The next year he took over from the retiring Cardinal Sean Brady.

He has now been in Armagh for over five years.

"My surprise at the appointment did not last long because I became involved with the work right away. It can be a lonely role dealing with situations of stress and particular difficulty.

"I felt an emptiness when my mum died recently.

"During my few hours off duty each week I used to go to see her in Derry and I have pledged to continue that visit in order to see my brother and sister who still live there.

"I find great solace in my spiritual life and I'm hugely supported by good friends who have been there for me for many years."

One of his hobbies used to be gardening. He said, with a laugh: "I haven't done much gardening recently, but I still enjoy walking and I love music.

"Nowadays I'm very fond of choral music well-performed and particularly sacred music."

From his youth he played trombone. "I played in orchestras and bands, in brass bands and marching bands and even in a jazz ensemble.

"I kept it up until I came to Armagh five years ago but I haven't played since then.

"Sometimes I feel like going upstairs and having a good old blast on the trombone. Happily, there are no neighbours here to be disturbed."

The Archbishop also follows sport. "I keep up with all the GAA games, though in an archdiocese with four counties you have to be careful who you support, especially when they play each other.

"I'm also interested in football and the Premier League.

"In my youth I supported Leeds United but I'm almost embarrassed to admit that now."

One of his greatest comforts is the support he receives from people from other Christian traditions and faiths, as well as from his own people.

"One day recently a lady I had never met told me that she prays for me every morning.

"At that time I was very sensitive because of the loss of my mother, and I got this amazing emotional moment of realising that I was being carried by the prayers of so many good people.

"I still like to think that my mum and dad and those who have gone before me are not too far away, and that they are with me in thought and prayer."

Belfast Telegraph

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