Cardinal Seán Brady,
Archbishop of Armagh

On the occasion of his being
Created a Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI

Saturday 24th November 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today has been a very joyful day – a day of many graces and much happiness – one of the happiest days of my life. I am very honoured and humbled that Pope Benedict XVI has created me a Cardinal. I hope that people will see in it an expression of our Holy Father’s particular regard and affection for them, the people and the Church in Ireland.

I am delighted to be joined here in Rome, a City I love so much, by so many of my family and friends at this very special time.
I am also particularly grateful for all the prayers and good wishes which have accompanied me through these last few days. These good wishes come from literally thousands of people. People who are glad for the Church and for Ireland itself, at this joyful event. I wish to acknowledge in particular those many expressions of support and encouragement I have received from members of other Christian Churches and other faiths in Ireland, including some from people who are also members of the Loyal Orders. Their sentiments have been a real encouragement to me. They are one of the many reasons why I have great hope for our future. It is a hope, rooted in mutual respect and dignity. All of this leads me to believe that we are indeed in a new place – in a new era – an era of great promise right now.
I am also very grateful to the President, Mary McAleese, the Secretary of State, Mr Shaun Woodward, Mr Dermot Ahern, Minister Paul Goggins and all the other representatives of Government, North and South, who have joined us for this occasion. I am particularly pleased that we are able to have present members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, including Deputy First Minister, Mr Martin McGuinness and the leader of the SDLP, Mr Mark Durkan. Their presence too is another symbol of confidence for our future. I take this opportunity to ask people to pray that our peace process in Northern Ireland will continue to be a source of pride and joy and inspiration to peace-makers across the world.

A great number of priests have come to Rome this weekend from Armagh, Kilmore, USA and many other parts. I would also like to take the opportunity today to pay tribute to the priests and religious of Ireland, including those who work abroad on the missions. I would like to think that today is also about them and for them. I am thrilled that so many priests have come to Rome this weekend from the dioceses of Armagh and Kilmore and from the Maynooth and Roman classes of 1964 and many others besides.

These have been difficult, at times traumatic years for the Church in Ireland. Yet in the midst of these challenges, the overwhelming majority of priests and religious have continued to serve their people, in humble patience, with quiet devotion and outstanding generosity.

That is why I believe that today is, in some way, about them. It is about the quiet acts of kindness, the supportive, prayerful presence in times of tragedy and disaster, the efforts to build community and bring dignity, comfort and hope to those in need.
These are the things which have been the hallmark of generations of Irish priests and religious at home and across the world. It is a legacy of which, I believe, Ireland can be proud. Their generosity and commitment are recognised and celebrated in many parts of the world.

Being created a Cardinal is about strengthening the bonds of affection and unity between the See of Peter and the Irish Church. So I have no hesitation in saying to the lay faithful of Ireland today, ‘Take heart! Today is recognition of your goodness and of your fidelity. Today the Successor of Peter has not so much honoured me as honoured the people of Ireland for their dedication to faith, family and fair play. That is why it is such a delight to have so many lay friends from Armagh, Cavan and the USA here too.

The years ahead will bring a new emphasis on the role of the lay faithful. This is to be welcomed. It is also appropriate and necessary. Respect for our neighbour, defence of the inherent dignity of the human person, generosity in service of others, concern for those most in need, especially in the Third World, turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, these are the things which have made Ireland the great, generous and peace-making country that it is. These are the things that will keep Ireland great but these are things which flow from faith. My prayer is that these will continue to be the outstanding characteristics of the Irish. That will only happen if the foundation of faith remains intact.

Two weeks ago Father Peter McVerry addressed the priests of our diocese. He told us that the passion of God is compassion, especially for the poor and the vulnerable of our world. My hope is that through God’s grace, Ireland will continue to be known as a country which values and defends the irreplaceable gift of faith, a faith which is compassionate and has at its heart a concern for the vulnerable and the poor.

My hope is that we will continue to see our reputation as a country of strong faith as an asset. As something which motivates and inspires our compassion for the world. I pray for a deep renewal of that faith. I pray that many Irish people will rediscover the joy which has brought such fulfilment to my own life, the joy of following Jesus Christ.

Becoming a Cardinal is not just an honour, it is also a responsibility. It implies a willingness to help the Holy Father carry out the task entrusted to him of feeding the flock, strengthening them in their faith, leading back the stray and guiding them safely into the banquet of Eternal Life. Pope Benedict himself has described it as the work of rescuing people from the many forms of alienation that are in our world today. I believe that the Holy Father wants us all to help him proclaim the Good News that God is love.

I ask your prayers that I may be given the wisdom and courage to carry out that task and, as I do so, I make my own the Prayer of St. Patrick.

‘But what can I say or what can I promise to my Lord,
as I can do nothing that He has not given me?
May He search my hearts and my deepest feelings….
May God never permit it to happen to me
that I should lose His people which He purchased in the utmost parts of the world.
I pray to God to give me perseverance
and to deign that I be a faithful witness to Him
to the end of my life for my God.’

Finally, I want to express my appreciation of your presence here today. I realise it is not so easy to cover a long event like this, not least, when it is out of doors, in unpredictable weather. But I want to thank you for the coverage you have already provided and will continue to provide over the next few days. I know it will mean a lot to people in Ireland who have an interest in the events of today and those of the next few days.

I hope you will forgive me if I pay particular tribute to RTÉ. It was very generous of them to broadcast live both the Consistory this morning and the Mass of the Rings tomorrow. I would ask Joe to convey my sincere appreciation to those responsible for this decision in RTÉ and also for the decision to broadcast the Mass in Armagh next Thursday.

Thank you, I hope you will enjoy the rest of our time together.