Archbishop Eamon Martin, the Archbishop of Armagh in Northern Ireland, attended October’s Vatican Synod on the Family.
A first-time Synod Father, Archbishop Martin, like Cardinal Vincent Nichols, was asked to moderate one of the English language small groups.
We recorded this interview in Rome just before the synod concluded. The Archbishop told us what he hoped to take back to Armagh and the wider Church in Ireland:
“I will bring with me a wealth of learning, understanding of where people are at throughout the world. I will bring with me a renewed enthusiasm for pastoral mission to the family and I will bring with me a desire to see if I can get families in Ireland themselves to become missionary to other families.”
The General Secretary of our Bishops’ Conference, Fr Christopher Thomas, interviewed Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh in Rome.
Archbishop Martin: My name is Archbishop Eamon Martin. I am the Archbishop of Armagh in Ireland and I am one of two Irish delegates to the Synod this year in Rome. It has been an absolutely tremendous experience being part of this universal church gathering and one of the things that I have noticed at the Synod is so many people from so many countries with so much to say about their experiences of family, the joys and the hopes of family life but also the griefs and the struggles of family life. And someone said to me today what do you think will come out of this synod? The next few days – what is it going to deliver – and I just thought to myself if I was to go home tonight, before this synod is even over, I will bring with me a wealth of learning, understanding of where people are at throughout the world. I will bring with me a renewed enthusiasm for pastoral mission to the family and I will bring with me a desire to see if I can get families in Ireland themselves to become missionary to other families.
One of the things that I have seen when I have been up at the Synod Hall with the English and Welsh delegation – and today was lovely – there was a man holding a baby and giving him a pat on the back after giving him a bottle. What is your feeling about the lay participation? How has that been?
Archbishop Martin: I have been really blessed. I am the moderator of one of the English-speaking groups, as is Cardinal Nichols, and in our group we have 20 Synod Fathers as they are called. But we also have seven lay people and they have contributed immensely to the discussions in our group. Just bringing their experiences of family grounded in the daily living of family life. We have also been blessed in our group to have two fraternal delegates, that is, people from other Christian traditions, Methodist and Church of England. For example, we were discussing today about mixed marriages and marriages of disparity of cult, that is Christians who are married to a non-Christian and their insight really helped us to delve deeper into those paragraphs. So it has been a wonderful experience, a wealth of contributions. It was my first synod and I loved it.
So if there was one memory, what would it be – if you had to choose it from the myriad of images you have in your mind?
Archbishop Martin: The memory for me, and I am a little bit biased now coming from Ireland here. On my very first day I was given my place in the Synod Hall and it is like a big theatre or cinema, and I was 2G5. So I found my way to Row G, Sector 2, Seat 5. And I turned round and the Bishop beside me was from Fiji and I said to him I have a cousin who was an Irish missionary in Fiji and he knew him. He could even pull up a picture on his mobile phone of St Patrick’s Church which my cousin, an Irish missionary, had built. I then turned to my left. There was a bishop from Buenos Aires and I said my dad had a cousin who was an Irish Christian Brother and he lives in Buenos Aires and even though he did not know him personally, he knew the College in which he worked. So Ireland, Fiji, Buenos Aires – could you think of three places more further apart in the world and yet there we were united in the Catholic faith – one holy, Catholic and apostolic, a universal Church.
Thanks Archbishop Eamon.
Our web section on the Ordinary General Assembly of Synod on the Family
Website for the Bishops’ Conference Marriage and Family Life project work