Church of Ireland Primate Archbishop Richard Clarke says Irish history affects people of all religious traditions and none on the island.
Dr Clarke, speaking at his Church’s General Synod in Dublin on Thursday, said the reality is that in this year of Irish centenaries people here are all shaped, in some way or another, by what happened in years gone by.
“The real gift is surely to recognise the shaping that we have received by our past, for better or worse, to interrogate it, and to decide upon how this may and should influence our future, so that we in our generation may contribute to the shaping of a wider future.
“This is as true in the life of the Church as in the life of a nation. We as the Church of Ireland have been shaped by previous generations, by events both inside and outside the life of the Church, and by the influence of others upon us.”
The Archbishop said he plans to join with Roman Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin in June in leading a group of young people from across the island, and from Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic community backgrounds on a three-day journey to conflict memorials.
The journey, Dr Clarke confirmed, begins at the memorial wall in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin where British soldiers and republican activists are remembered, and to the Somme battlefield in France and the Irish Peace Park in Messines, Belgium.
On the upcoming UK referendum on Europe next month, the Archbishop, without showing preference on how to vote, said: “As in every election and referendum, all citizens have a duty to consider carefully the consequences of their decision-making for the whole community, while also ensuring that they do not neglect the privilege they have been given as voters in a democratic system of government.”
Turning to the refugee situation, Dr Clarke said: “We must all face up to the responsibilities given for those who have come to western Europe, in the hope of finding safety and security, as they flee from violence and destruction in their own countries.
“It can never be permissible for Christians to imagine that refugees should not be our problem. We need to recall that Jesus Christ Himself was always more at home with those who were suffering and outside the realm of social or religious respectability than with comfortable and complacent insiders.
“In many ways He Himself was an outsider; He died on the cross as one rejected by all around Him. God does not distinguish, in His love, between those we think of as like us and those we think of as somehow different. We cannot turn our backs on dire need before our eyes; we are all made, equally, in God’s image.”