The Catholic Church has been ‘not a great source of hope’ lately, bishop admits

The tendency for Irish Catholics to feel more hopeless than hopeful was lamented by the Bishop of Meath who admitted that “our faith may not be as strong as it used to be”.

culminating in the opening of the National Novena at Knock Shrine yesterday, Bishop Tom Deenihan said: “Sometimes religious people can be a bit negative and hopeless. They can see the glass as half empty, rather than half full.

In his homily at Knock Basilica, Dr Deenihan said: “It may be an Irish thing, but joy is not a word that one immediately or easily associates with faith, belief or even religious observance”.

He suggested that Irish Catholicism had long worked on the idea that “if something is pleasant, it is either sinful or bad for us – a kind of Jansenist interpretation of life which considers suffering and difficulties as a virtue”.

But joy and hope had also become more absent from Irish life recently due to the declining socio-economic context, the specter of refugees fleeing war, a worrying acceleration of climate change, political conflict and aggression. international markets, and of brutal and rapid growth. in the number of those living in poverty, many for the first time.

For the believer, the disappearance of joy and hope was linked to the experience of the Church in Ireland in recent times, which had not been “a great source of joy or hope”, admitted the bishop.

Declining vocations, fewer attendees, far less income, loss of prestige, influence and reputation – much of which was self-inflicted through abuse – had caused despair and a lack of joy and sense of purpose. hope, he said.

Referring to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the faithful, Dr Deenihan said it had tested people’s faith and sense of hope. “Socialization, work, faith practices and rituals, especially rituals surrounding funerals, have been impacted, and many have lost hope, become fearful and desperate,” he said.

He added that although the restrictions have been lifted, many people are still cocooning. “Many are still overly fearful, and really desperate and have become hopeless. It’s tragic,” he added.

Speaking about the cause of people’s lack of hope, Dr Deenihan suggested it may be because “our faith may not be as strong as it used to be”.

Addressing the question of where God was during the Covid crisis, he said there was a tendency to seek God in the dramatic.

“I like to think that God, and therefore hope, was in the dozens of people from sports clubs and other organizations across the country who shopped for those cocooned. God and hope are came with those who nursed and cared for the sick.And God and hope was in those who developed vaccines, who used their skills, abilities and talents to protect people.

The novena is returning to its traditional in-person format for the first time since 2019 following the pandemic.

Thousands of pilgrims are expected at the nine-day program of lectures and liturgies themed “A Journey of Hope” taking place at the Co Mayo Shrine until August 22.

Today Roseanna Ruane, mother of Saoírse Ruane who appeared on The Last Toy Show in 2020, where she shared the story of how she lost her right leg to cancer and learned to walk on a new prosthetic leg, will speak about the novena on the “Power of prayer in difficult times “.

Martha J. Finley