Irish archbishop: St. Patrick was an 'undocumented migrant'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz


ARMAGH, Northern Ireland (CNS) — The leader of the
Catholic Church in Ireland has urged Irish people and those of Irish descent
celebrating St. Patrick’s Day to remember the plight of migrants.

Archbishop Eamon Martin — St. Patrick’s modern-day
successor as archbishop of Armagh — used his message for the March 17 feast to
recall that St. Patrick was first brought to Ireland as a slave by traffickers.

The archbishop said that “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.”

“This is so shockingly exemplified by the refugee
crisis here in Europe,” he said.

“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,” Archbishop Martin said.

Referring to, among others, the estimated 50,000 Irish
people living illegally in the United States, the archbishop — who is also
president of the Irish bishops’ conference — pointed out that “many of
our compatriots remain undocumented in various countries around the world and,
in some cases, feel vulnerable and treated with suspicion.”

The archbishop pointed out 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,”
the archbishop said.

Meanwhile, to mark the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, Catholic and Protestant cathedrals in Armagh were to be illuminated in
green. Tradition holds that St. Patrick founded the
ancient see of Armagh.

A vigil walk between the two illuminated cathedrals
will begin at the Church of Ireland (Anglican) cathedral and move to the
Catholic cathedral. Anglican Archbishop Richard Clarke will lead those gathered
in prayer at St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, then guide the group
via torchlight to St. Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral, where they will be welcomed
by Archbishop Martin.

Organizers said this symbolic expression of the unity
of the churches reflects St. Patrick’s own journey of uniting the Irish people
with Christianity.

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