ARMAGH, Northern Ireland– Celebrations in Ireland today for the feast of St Patrick emphasized building unity between Protestants and Catholics and remembering all immigrants, including the Irish in the US.
On the eve of St Patrick’s Day, Catholic and Protestant cathedrals were both lit up in green to commemorate the feast day.
A vigil walk, beginning in the St Patrick’s Church of Ireland (Anglican) cathedral and ending in the Catholic cathedral, led the faithful to reflect on St Patrick’s own journey, which resulted in the Christianization of the country. Anglican Archbishop Richard Clarke led the vigil walk from his own Cathedral to the steps of the Catholic cathedral, where those present were welcomed by Catholic Archbishop Eamon Martin.
Today, Martin, the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, used the story of St Patrick in his homily to discuss St Patrick’s example and emphasize the plight of modern-day immigrants and urge action amongst Irish Catholics.
Archbishop Martin, who is head of the Irish Bishops’ Conference and Archbishop of Armagh, reminded the faithful that Patrick came to the island as a victim of human trafficking.
Martin, who is also St Patrick’s successor, said that St. Patrick’s experience of isolation and captivity as a teenager transformed and shaped his whole life and his relationship with God. His lonely time as a slave on the hills of Ireland became a transforming experience, where he felt embraced by the fatherly love of God.
“I invite you to pray for refugees and for all displaced families at this time and, wherever you are, to encourage the hospitality and welcome for which we, Irish, are famous the world over,” He said.
“As Irish people, we cannot think of Patrick without acknowledging the enormous humanitarian and pastoral challenges facing growing numbers of people who find themselves displaced and without status in our world,” Martin said. “This is so shockingly exemplified by the refugee crisis here in Europe. Prompted by the situation of thousands of displaced people around the world, let us think about Patrick the ‘unlearned refugee’ (as he once described himself), the slave in exile, Patrick the undocumented migrant.”
His eminence also referred to the estimated 50, 000 Irish people living illegally in the US and said: “many of our compatriots remain undocumented in various countries around the world and, in some cases, feel vulnerable and treated with suspicion.”