‘Welcoming the migrant has to be to the fore of our ministry’ – new Dublin auxiliary bishop on immigration crisis

The leader of the Catholic Church in Dublin has warned that questions about the rights of migrants and refugees and the country’s capacity to welcome them are being “manipulated”.

In his homily at a ceremony at St Andrew’s Parish, Westland Row to ordain and welcome two new auxiliary bishops to assist him in the church’s largest diocese, Archbishop Dermot Farrell said church leaders must offer friendship to migrants and refugees.

The church, he added, must reach out to the poor, the excluded, the sick and those whose bodies, lives, families and communities have been “degraded by cycles of dependency,” and by the “fear instilled by those who cynically profit from [this] fragility”.

After the ceremony yesterday where he was formally welcomed as a new auxiliary bishop for Dublin, Bishop Paul Dempsey said: “Our society has obviously changed enormously.

“So many people have come into our country. Unfortunately, some people see that in a negative way – I don’t see it that way.

“It was wonderful to be able to welcome people and see the richness and the positivity that they can bring to our society and indeed to our church as well.

“Welcoming the migrant has to be to the fore of our ministry. The church should be a voice for those who are on the margins and the people on the margins at this moment in time are those who are migrants and refugees.”

In his homily, Dr Farrell said he sought two assistant bishops, Bishop Dempsey and Bishop Donal Roche, to help the diocese respond to the rapidly changing social and pastoral needs of its people.

The two bishops, he said, would engage with a society which is increasingly diverse, mobile and detached from traditional communities of faith centred on residential parishes.

“It would be a mistake for us as a local church to see these challenges as temporary,” he warned, and added that the church in Dublin is called to reimagine its pastoral mission in a creative way.

The Archdiocese of Dublin has over 190 parishes serving more than one million Catholics.

After he was formally welcomed as a new auxiliary bishop to Dublin, Bishop Dempsey told the congregation: “The church is not ‘dying’ – rather it is on the cusp of something new.”

Dr Dempsey, who was transferred from the west of Ireland diocese of Achonry under Pope Francis’s ­historic structural streamlining of the Irish church announced last month, said what is dying is a model of church.

Though the “prophets of doom” are always “forecasting disaster,” saying the church hasn’t a voice any more, or that the church no longer has a place in the public square, he said that the church is in a process of renewal.

But the 53-year-old acknowledged that it is a challenging mission. “We have come through an enormous amount of change as a society and a church. We have had to confront difficult truths that were necessary to face.”

Bishop Roche – who was ordained yesterday as a second auxiliary bishop for Dublin – told the congregation of bishops, priests, families and friends: “When the celebrations are over there’s work to be done and I am very aware of the huge task ahead. We face enormous challenges as a church for which there are no easy solutions.”

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