Christ’s peace is needed now more than ever, the Primate of All-Ireland has said in his New Year’s message.
The Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin, made his statement as he voiced his concern and disappointment that some churchgoers were opposed to the sign of peace at Mass.
“I have heard that some people apparently do not like the sign of peace at Mass, and, for various reasons, would prefer not to be invited to offer it,” he said during his homily at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, on New Year’s Day.
“That would disappoint me,” he continued, adding, “but I think we should be far more troubled by the reality that Christ’s peace is needed so much and by so many, with all the threats to unity and peace within the Christian community and the world.”
Archbishop Martin explained that the sign of peace was especially meaningful on the first day of the year as it also marks the World Day of Peace.
He also noted that violence and war is ongoing in many parts of the world, pointed to the “horrific acts of terror that are carried out by some people who have so distorted and twisted their religious beliefs to justify such gruesome and shocking atrocities”, referring to the murder of 45 Coptic Christians in Egypt on Palm Sunday.
He also expressed his shock that there had been further attacks during the Christmas season.
“Here in Ireland, as we exchange the sign of peace on this first day of the New Year, let us do so in solidarity with so many of our Christian brothers and sisters throughout the world who suffer or die for their faith,” Archbishop Martin said.
He pointed out that the challenge to speak and live the message of peace remains more important than ever as we enter the New Year.
“My wish on this World Day of Peace is that Christians who exchange the sign of the peace of Christ at the celebration of the Eucharist, will be empowered by God’s grace to become active ambassadors for peace in the Church and in the world, beginning in their own homes, families, workplaces and neighbourhoods.
“In this way the sign of peace will avoid becoming an empty or meaningless gesture, but will rather be a driver towards reconciliation and building peace.”
Picture: Inmates exchange the sign of peace during Mass. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz).