Christians in Gaza remind us of the need to bring the hope of Christ to an environment of despair, says Cardinal Sean Brady.The cardinal, archbishop of Armagh and primate of Ireland, affirmed this today in an address to the priests and people of the Diocese of Kerry, on the topic of "Contemporary Ireland and the Church."
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Among other items, Cardinal Brady spoke about the Gaza situation, with particular reference to his visit there last April.

"The images of death and destruction flashing across our screens from Gaza at the moment are heart-rending," he said.

He described the feeling of fear that the people live with daily, stating, "It is difficult to exaggerate the sense of isolation and the level of destruction which surrounds you in Gaza."

But during his visit, Cardinal Brady affirmed, he found a small, committed Catholic community, a parish of only 200 Catholics with the mission of "bringing Christian dignity and hope to a society in despair."

One of the first victims of the current violence was a 14-year-old member of the parish, one of the few Christian children in Gaza, who died of the shock from the bombing around her house.

"Just think about that for a moment," urged the cardinal. "A fourteen year old girl dying from pure fear and shock!"
He continued: "Just think about the images we have seen of Israeli and Palestinian children crouching in fear to shield themselves from missiles and bullets.

"With the image of these innocent and frightened children in our minds let us ask ourselves: Is the global economic crisis really the most urgent problem in the world today or is it the failure to build global structures of solidarity, justice and peace?"


The Gaza parish runs one of the largest schools in the territory, and almost all of its students are Muslims.
Cardinal Brady lauded the efforts of the parish priest to build reconciliation, peace and community: "He is accepted and respected by the Muslim community because of his transparent goodness and his unquestionable commitment to people around him — whatever their religious or political background."

The cardinal urged his listeners to also be "an oasis of hope in a desert of despair."

He pointed out in particular that the peace process in Northern Ireland has become a beacon of hope to many, "which we should celebrate and seek to share in appropriate ways with others."

"We are bearers of hope," said Cardinal Brady, "the hope of the Gospel — a hope, as St. Paul reminds us, that cannot be confounded."

He continued: "As we face into a year which will see many challenges to hope in our own country, we need witnesses to hope.

"As we face into a year which will see the Church here confronted with the painful reality of its own human failings, we need voices of hope.

"We need courageous voices which can identify and challenge the attitudes which have put our spiritual, moral and economic resources in Ireland at risk. We need balanced and constructive voices to remind us that these resources, while shaken to the core, are more than capable of a strong recovery."