Appealing for renewed efforts in the search for peace during his homily at the Rite of Religious Profession of the Order of St. Clare in the Poor Clare Monastery, Faughart on Friday 4 February 2005 Cardinal Seán Brady made the following appeal.

Recent events and statements have created anxiety about the search for peace in our own land. So, a convent dedicated to the tradition of peace and selfless service associated with Clare and Francis has a particular significance. Located, as it is, in the ‘Gap of the North’ the meeting place between North and South, it is a symbolic frontier of the conflict which has claimed so many lives and damaged so many others in this land. The witness of a community of people who ‘hold all things in common’, who daily put aside their own legitimate desires for the sake of the good of the whole community, is a powerful reminder of what makes for real and lasting peace.

Peace, without a commitment to the common good, to the good of the whole of society in all its complexity of allegiances, identities and aspirations, is a peace that cannot be sustained. For, only a commitment to the common good, to the legitimate structures of social life such as representative and democratic government, just laws and policing, which are instruments of a free society, can provide the social basis for justice and peace.

Some seven years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and some ten years after the first ceasefire, it is the time to gratefully acknowledge the progress that has been achieved and to honestly admit that things are better than they were. It is also the time to realistically see the difficulties that, here and now, exist and which still need to be sorted out. It is also the time to look forward in hope to a future when many of those difficulties will have been overcome and eliminated.

One thing is becoming clearer. There cannot be a peace process without a corresponding justice process, without discussion and agreement about the moral, legal and civic values which should underpin the society we are seeking to create. Perhaps we have all been too tolerant at times of activity, not confined to any one part of the community, which is inconsistent with the vision of a shared, just and democratic society. One consequence of recent events is that such activity is now more clearly seen for what it is – a threat to the shared and democratic future for which the overwhelming majority of people voted for in the Good Friday Agreement. The Good Friday Agreement was a vote for peace; a peace built on justice, truth and freedom. That should not be forgotten.

So, no cause, no sense of alienation from the State, no warped moral logic, can ever regard activities such as armed robbery, racketeering and maiming as anything other than gravely contrary to the common good and therefore criminal, sinful and a constant threat to justice and peace. If ever such activities become part of a general culture of criminality and violence, supported by threats and intimidation; well then they become forms of debilitating oppression to whole communities.

A crime is a crime precisely because it injures the good of other people, because it damages the public good. No one should be in any doubt that the deliberate and intentional killing of the innocent is a crime by any human standard and a grave evil in the sight of God.

Some people have responded to recent events with understandable anger and disappointment. Yet, it may be that the challenge is to see the current difficulties, real and significant, as they are, as an opportunity rather than an insurmountable obstacle. The fact remains that the best way of moving our society forward, the best way of transforming any latent attitudes of tolerance for violent and illegal activity, is to work together to construct a better society – the kind of society we came close to achieving in the run-up to Christmas. Admittedly, the task will now be more difficult. The damage to trust is such that clearer and more reliable commitments will be required about the presence and activities of paramilitary organisations. However, if dealt with patiently and constructively, as with previous difficulties, it is just possible that we could, in fact, arrive at a better position than we have ever been in before. The language of anger, or of subtle threat, of humiliation or intimidation, merely compounds the sense of disillusionment that sometimes prevails among some people about public life. But now is the time for us all to recommit ourselves to the noble task of peace building, peace building with enthusiasm despite the weariness which the setbacks and slow pace of progress naturally instils.

I appeal to all who genuinely desire peace to continue to work together to restore confidence and trust and to appreciate the difficulties which some people may be encountering. I appeal to all of those with influence in the current situation to return to the methodology and language of patient and constructive dialogue and negotiation. We have come too far, learnt too much and raised our sights too high, to return to the futility of threat, violence and blame.

It is always better to overcome evil with good, even if this approach is slower and less self-satisfying and more demanding, than with anger and violence. It is better to bring hope, rather than despair. In this spirit of freedom we need to look deep into our hearts and see what we really desire for ourselves and for those who will come after us. What kind of society do we wish to pass on to them? If we are able to draw closer to our neighbours and open our minds and hearts and imagine what kind of future they dream of for their children, perhaps we would be pleasantly surprised at how much their dreams resemble ours. Then we could all work together to make that dream come true. After all, as St. Francis reminds us, it is in the giving that we receive. In being an instrument of peace that we continue to protect the joy and dreams of the children of our land.