para-military church displays
r By a Staff Reporter
CHURCH authorities in Ireland should make every effort to prevent paramilitary. displays inside churches or in church grounds, and should reemphasise the difference between asking God's mercy on the dead and honouring the dead, the Irish hierarchy said last week.
The bishops, who were responding to the report "Violence in Ireland prepared by a joint working party of the Irish Council of Churches and the Catholic Church, unreservedly supported the recommendation that church worship and such ceremonies as funerals should not be exploited by para-military organisations.
Adding that the Church authorities could do little to prevent such displays in the streets, the bishops pointed to the traditional parades which take place in Ireland during July and August.
These were often a cause of
tension, an d many demonstrations which were seemingly peaceful, because of their background of religion and politics, had often been the cause of civil unrest.
Churches and clergy should take a long look at their participations and co-operation with such demonstrations, the bishops said.
They welcomed the report as a recognition by all Churches of their shared responsibility to examine the tragedy of death and destruction in Ireland, but expressed disappointment at what they considered the report's inadequate treatment of discrimination in unemployment and housing, which they described as "one of the root causes of tension" in Northern Ireland.
The establishment of a Christian Centre of Social Investigation to examine the problems underlying the present unres was considered by the bishops to he one of the most important recommendations of the report, although they felt that such a centre should have wider terms of reference.
The centre should also help individuals by investigating seriousallegations of discrimination and injustice and should be prepared to investigate allegations of maltreatment of people in prison or custody.
"It has been the general experience of priests that there is no effective machinery to inhestigate in an impartial manner the abuse of lawful authority. This generates widespread frustration and thrusts people into the arms of the para-militaries."
The bishops, however, carefully avoided endorsing the report's call to the Churches to support the principle of a Bill of Rights to protect minorities, but stated instead that they supported and endorsed the European Convention on Human Rights and the protection it afforded to the individual and to minorities.
Church leaders and members of Churches should also take on the responsibility of publicly encouraging the idea of shared responsibility at all levels of government, at least for a specified limited period.
"We often wonder how many of our fellow Christians of other denominations realise how deeply our people feel the wounds of centuries."
On the controversial issue of integrated education the bishops welcomed the suggestion made in the report that contact between Catholic and Protestant schools should be strengthened. Exchanges of teachers between such schools could be encouraged from time to time in agreement with the education authority, the bishops said, although they were careful to stress that this did not imply a lack of professionalism or integrity on the part of teachers. "Tolerance must be taught and exemplified in all schools. There are already many joint activities in sport and culture between schools of differing traditions. Again, these should be encouraged and developed."
An additional suggestion made by the bishops was that a day agreed by all Churches should be set aside to commemorate all those who have died in Ireland through violence both in the recent and distant past.
The Churches should also be active in supporting peace movements which sprang up from the people and had noble and Christian principles. The bishops stressed, however, that such support should never be seen as a "take-over bid." • "The presence of Church leaders at peace rallies can often be misconstrued and misinterpreted by people with less than noble intentions," they said.