SERVICE FOR THE ‘DISAPPEARED’
ST. PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, ARMAGH
SUNDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2000
ADDRESS BY CARDINAL SEÁN BRADY
We come here today to remember, to remember people who have suffered an immense sorrow. We are here to be with you as you remember the terrible wrong that was done to your dear ones. We really only have a slight idea of the hurt you have endured. We have only a hint of the trauma you have suffered, not only in the loss of someone you loved but in the difficulty you met in finding people to talk to about your sorrow; people who were willing to share your grief. We are here to make sure that you and your beloved ones are not forgotten, that your suffering is remembered. We come to pray that out of that remembrance may come the strength to accept and even to forgive. We are here to show our support for one another.
We gather today to bind up hearts that are broken with sorrow and with loss. We do so with our presence and our prayers, with our sympathy and our support. We are here to be with you, you who have been devastated by the loss of someone you love. We have come to comfort you who mourn the disappearance of your dear ones.
We have come to pray. We acknowledge our own helplessness. We turn to God, the God of all consolation. He comforts us. He comforts us in all our sorrow. We know we ourselves have been comforted by God in our times of sorrow. So, we have the possibility to offer others, in their sorrow, the consolation which we ourselves have received from God.
As Christians we share the same baptism. But Christians also share responsibility for one another. When they are sick, Christians have a responsibility to do all they can to help the sick return to health. In the same way we are all called to offer consolation to those who have suffered the loss of someone they love. Christian consolation is rooted in hope. It is built on the hope that comes from believing, believing in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. As he has risen from the dead, we hope that we too shall rise from the dead.
A Christian community gives consolation to a bereaved family in many ways. It does so in a special way by taking part in the funeral rites of the deceased. Funerals have always been important in the lives of a community. They provide the opportunity for the bereaved to commend their dead to God. They raise up our hopes in times of sorrow. Funerals are very important for those who believe in Christ. They give us an opportunity to express our own faith that we are destined to rise from the dead with Christ, our Risen Lord. A Christian burial is very important in the context of allowing people to heal, and to overcome their sorrow, and their shock. A grave gives us a focus for grief. It is a place to visit where flowers can be brought and prayers offered. That is why it is so important that the search for the location of victims’ remains should continue.
Today we pray for guidance for those involved in that search. We pray for people who may not have yet done so, to have the courage to come forward and provide information, which may be of help, in the search for the bodies that have not yet been located. Families have a need to know the truth about what happened. They have a right to know that truth. It is essential for their peace of mind they should receive the information that will set their minds at rest and enable them to get on with their grieving. Otherwise they are liable to be haunted by the memory of this tragedy.
I have been told that your deepest desire is to fulfil your sacred duty to your loved ones by laying them to rest. I believe that this is true. I believe that you have no desire to engage in recrimination or prosecution.
You have been carrying an immense cross of suffering. You have endured that cross with wonderful courage. That endurance has given you strength, strength of character. It deepens your faith. That strength of character has given you hope. You are an inspiration to all of us.
In the Gospel, which we have just heard, Jesus spoke solemnly to his friends. It was the night on which he was going to be betrayed. He asked them to put their trust totally in him. He promises to come back and take them with him so that where he is, they also may be. Today we commend our sister, and our brothers who have disappeared, into the hands of the Father of Mercies. We do so in a sure and certain hope. Our hope is that, together with all who have died in Christ, they will rise with him on the last day.
We belong to God. Every moment of our existence we are in His gentle, loving care.
The memory of the disappearance of these people saddens and shames us. It should also spur us on to do all in our power to ensure that such things can never happen again in our society.
The Gospel speaks of trust. The seeds of mutual trust planted in recent months must be given a chance to bear fruit. The relationships that were only beginning to be built up must be given time to grow. Those relationships and only those relationships, can help us understand each other’s hopes and fears as well as the hurts and difficulties. Without that understanding, other attempts at peace-making and bridge building will, I fear achieve little.
The words of Nelson Mandela, seem particularly appropriate at this moment.
“Our deepest fear” he says “is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Now if we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others”.
I say these words are appropriate because if we let our light shine and create together the kind of future which we really want, instead of accepting a future shaped by the fears and suspicions of the past, then I believe that future to be one of great hope. Despite the recent setbacks, I am convinced that the conditions and the goodwill still exist to deliver a lasting peace.
Among ancient sailors it was the custom to send forth birds to look for land. Noah, you may remember, had no success with the first bird. It had to come back. The second was a dove and it had a little more success. It brought back an olive branch in its beak. The olive branch was a sign of peace, it signalled the end of angry judgement. It gave hope. Then finally, the third bird didn’t come back and Noah knew he was safe. Despite everything, I think that the dove with the olive branch can be seen on the horizon. Let us all work and pray that this may be so. It would ensure that those who have suffered such terrible suffering did not suffer in vain.
We gather in a Cathedral, devoted to St. Patrick. His family had the experience of him disappearing at the age of sixteen and not returning until he was many years older. May his intercession gain for us the grace of an end to the sorrow and the prize of a lasting peace.