LEICESTER, United Kingdom – As the Catholic Church in Ireland is mired in a historical scandal on the behavior of Catholic religious orders in the running of homes for unwed mothers, Dublin’s new archbishop has praised the role of religious sisters and brothers in Irish society.

Archbishop Dermot Farrell was installed on Feb. 2, taking over from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who served as the Dublin archbishop from 2004 until his resignation was accepted Dec. 29, 2020.

Farrell noted that his installation came on the World Day of Consecrated Life, and took the opportunity to thank the men and women serving in religious orders.

“Without their service, without the presence of their communities, our church would be a very different Church,” he said.

Although he didn’t directly reference it, his words came just weeks after a government-commissioned report gave a scathing assessment of the Mother and Baby Homes run by Irish religious orders in the middle of the 20th century. The report noted the inhumane conditions that often existed in these facilities, as well as their high infant mortality rate.

In his remarks, Farrell defended the contribution of the religious sisters and brothers in the country.

“In another age, they were at the forefront of addressing the educational, social, and health of those who risked being left behind. Today they continue their prophetic ministry in the service of those whom our society might prefer not to see: Those who suffer from addiction, those who struggle to put food on the table, women trafficked, those without a roof over their heads, or a front door of their own,” the archbishop said.

The scandal is just the latest to hit the Church in Ireland, where the clerical abuse scandal has rocked what was once the most Catholic nation in Europe. In recent years, Ireland has legalized both same-sex marriage and abortion with the overwhelming support of the voters.

In his homily, Farrell said the mission of the Church “is the call and responsibility of every baptized person whose active participation in the mission of the Church is to be considered indispensable and necessary.”

“In this light, leadership in the Church is not about telling people what to do; rather it is about promoting co-responsibility and overcoming the mindset which runs the risk of relegating the baptized to a subordinate role, effectively keeping them on the edges of Church life,” he said.

The archbishop said the “only viable pastoral plan for the future” will involve collaboration between the people, clergy and those in religious life.

“That will involve not only working together in new ways, but getting to know each other anew,” Farrell said.

“There is no pre-packaged plan to address the reality in which we find ourselves. There is a direction; there are way markers, we know them well: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. They call us to build, or to re-build parishes marked by welcome, openness, forgiveness, resilience, and courage,” he said.

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