Primate speaks on living out reconciliation in a conflicted world


Archbishop John McDowell giving his Presidential address at General Synod.

The Church of Ireland’s Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop John McDowell, this morning spoke on how members of the Church can live out a life of reconciliation as he addressed its General Synod in the Armagh City Hotel.

This is the first meeting of the General Synod to take place in the city since 2018 and will continue in person tomorrow with an online session to follow on Tuesday evening (14th May).

In his Presidential address he said; “We do not live in a world that has the appearance of being reconciled and at peace in any sense,” he remarked. “There are many parts of the globe, as we sit here today, where people experience life as a perpetual night; a black darkness even at the midday.” Reconciliation requires love, in the sense of “our goodwill and benevolence towards our neighbours” and being “what binds people together against hatred and dishonesty.”

On the issue of migration, Archbishop McDowell asserted that Ireland is not ‘full’.

“Ireland, North and South, has been right to welcome migrants and asylum seekers. In one sense, such incomers made Ireland catholic as in universal and diverse in a way we hadn’t been before,” he stated.

“Perhaps not enough thought was given to how to integrate those newcomers and their needs into society, and what that means for social and physical infrastructure. That oversight does not excuse us from our responsibility to seek justice for our neighbour. Political failures cannot disapply the law of love. If the well-being of our neighbour (wherever they may have come from) is becoming more precarious, then we are called through the law of love to work even harder for justice.”

When dealing with any complex moral or theological matter, he suggested that “we first ask ourselves should we speak or act about this matter at all?” If there is a need to contribute to the issue, the Primate noted that the Church of Ireland’s method has been to refer it to a group made up of clergy and lay people, of wide-ranging opinions and backgrounds.

He continued: “All this is to ensure that what we will say is indeed free decision taken in consultation, and after careful thought and prayer. The cohesion and unity of the Church of Ireland since Disestablishment has only been achieved through this continual, patient wrestling over time with complex issues, avoiding simplistic answers to difficult questions. And in that wrestling with issues we must above all respect the dignity of each individual.”

The full text of the Presidential address is on the Church of Ireland website;