National War Memorial Gardens 2014
Address by Msgr Eoin Thynne HCF
Remembrance is part of our culture, our heritage and this afternoon as we gather on the centennial anniversary of the commencement of World War 1 we reflect on the sacrifices made by men and women and pray for all whose lives were lost in the “war to end all wars”.
This event is a unique expression of homage, devoted to the remembrance of those who have given their lives in war, those who have suffered and all who mourn them.
Despite the passing of the years, the island of Ireland feels strongly about Remembrance and honouring the remarkable men and women who endured and suffered so much. The story of their suffering, their tenacity their courage lives on. It will never be forgotten.
Remembrance transcends all boundaries. Conscious of the trauma caused by the Great War, we stand united; representatives from the four provinces; retired and serving members of the Defence Forces, members of the Royal British Legion, diplomats, ambassadors and public representatives, all here to remember that at the heart of the conflict were ordinary people and a great deal of suffering.
The loss of more than forty nine thousand Irishmen, whether Catholic, Protestant, Nationalist or Unionist is a tragedy for all of us. There are no hierarchies of sacrifices, suffering or loss. Only grieving families and lost potential.
Today we remember their sacrifice – a self-sacrifice of those who believed in something bigger than themselves. And whether they died for their beliefs, or in the cause of freedom, or in defence of the highest principles of religion and morality; we salute their personal courage, the ultimate quality on which all other human qualities depend.
For those who sought and seek to serve, nothing can separate them from the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus.
Today, as never before, we must pray for God’s help in broadening and deepening the peace we enjoy. Let us pray for freedom and justice and a more stable world.
It is both fitting and proper that we meet here at the Irish National War Memorial Gardens in Islandbridge to honour our departed. I compliment the Office of Public Works who in conjunction with the National War Memorial Committee manage and maintain the Gardens to such a high standard and provide the space to pause, reflect and pray.
Let us recognise also, the contribution of all peacekeepers, the men and women of Óglaigh na hÉireann and the British Armed Forces who deserve a place alongside previous generations for the courage they show and the sacrifices they make. In an era where so many act only in pursuit of narrow self-interest, they choose the opposite. They choose to serve a cause that is greater than self, enduring tour after tour of duty, giving others the opportunity for a better life.
It is encouraging to have here present so many veterans – members of IUNVA, ONET, the Naval Association and the Royal British Legion. I acknowledge the outstanding and extraordinary work you do and the service you provide on behalf of ex-soldiers. Occasions such as this present the opportunity not only for a grateful nation to express its gratitude but for soldiers serving and retired to tell stories that demand to be told.
If we are honest with ourselves we will admit there was a time when those who fought and suffered and survived, returned home, greeted not with gratitude or support, but with condemnation and neglect. They returned to an unsympathetic Ireland; marginalised, stigmatised and shell-shocked. It is never too late to say thank you. It is never too late to recognise their sacrifice. We the living must ensure that their sacrifice was not in vain. Today, we honour them and owe a debt of gratitude to those who above all else believed in and fought for a set of ideals.
May we as a nation always be a force for peace in the world. But the peace we seek is a real peace and not just the absence of war.
We can never know which war will be the last. But we take as our hope the prophecy of Isaiah, that “nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” We hope, we pray, that as the years progress, the face of war will recede into our distant memory. But the memory of those we remember today, those who died on the battlefields of Europe, their sacrifice will never fade.
Let us resolve to honour them, to redeem their sacrifice, to be stewards of the lives they never got to live, by doing all we can to see that the horrors of war are not visited upon us again. That is the true way to honour those we come here today to thank God for.
“If we are to maintain our peace and freedom, we must always remember.”
Let us pray
Gracious God, give us the faith to know that those we honour and love, those who died in the Great War are fully alive with you. May their memories, which we cherish always, be a source of happiness and joy. May our endurance win us eternal life and may we always feel your strength in our weakness. Amen.
12 July 2014