I warmly welcome Monsignor Fintan Gavin as our new Bishop and I am certain that the people of Cork will give him the traditional ‘Céad Míle Fáilte’. It is a great honour for a Dublin man to be promoted to the real capital of Cork! You would know, Monsignor Fintan, that many Cork people have made their mark when they went to Dublin. I scarcely need to mention any of the people, but they would include people like Jack Lynch, affectionately known as the real Taoiseach here in Cork and who brought Ireland into the EU, a union which our neighbour is now seeking to leave in a disorderly way! Other Cork people who made it big in Dublin include Seán Ó Faoláin, one of Ireland’s greatest writers and, of course, our own Michael Collins. Perhaps now is a good time to begin reversing that trend and that Dublin people would make a contribution to Cork! We always think down here that there are only two categories of people in Ireland, Cork people and those who wish they were Cork people! You have now obtained your wish thanks to Pope Francis.
Monsignor Fintan, you will certainly have the respect and prayerful support of the priests of the Diocese. They will be your closest collaborators. I have served among them as a priest and bishop and I can assure you that their dedication is total and unremitting. Cork and Ross is an extensive diocese, encompassing a large city, ever-growing suburbs, large towns, rural parishes, islands, educational establishments, prison, hospitals and, for forty years, a faraway mission in Peru and Ecuador. The demands on the priests, therefore, have been varied and challenging. There was always a willing manpower to fulfil whatever duties were demanded to provide for the spiritual care of the people. And in recent years, despite their increasing age profile and the constraints regarding personnel and the increasing population of their parishes, the priests have continued to provide for their parishioners a full parish service. Their only desire is to bring people closer to Christ and to serve the people as effectively as possible.
Cork people are very much aware of the enormous contribution made down through the years by the Religious Orders and Congregations. Any history of the diocese would be incomplete without taking into account their work and prayerful presence among us. The names of Mary Aikenhead, Nano Nagle and Jerome Kelly, founder of S.H.A.R.E., Gerald Griffin will forever remain indelible in the annals of the religious history of Cork. The landmark statue of Father Mathew, in Patrick Street, is a testament to his work in promoting temperance. Today, the Religious are responding creatively to current needs, particularly in providing support for people of other cultures.
The lay faithful, the Pobal Dé, a term deeply embedded in the Irish Catholic tradition, in all the parishes around the diocese have responded so generously, giving of their time and talents to participate in parish life. Every parish has a functioning parish pastoral council and finance committee that involves the voluntary participation of men and women, young and not so young in the running of the parish. Support is provided by the parish pastoral development office. At diocesan level, a similar group of volunteers assist the bishop directly by serving on the diocesan finance council, sacred art and architecture commission, child safeguarding programmes, outreach to young people, social services. The new bishop can confidently count on the support of men and women, highly qualified in their respective roles, giving freely of their expertise for the good of the people. All Church structures have no other purpose other than to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the people.
At a time of unprecedented change in our country, particularly in recent years, Cork too has changed over the years, mushrooming housing estates, new motorways, expanding industrial plants, developments in education, communication and cultural activities. However, despite growing materialism which is a widespread phenomenon and, indeed, which affects everyone, the vast majority of people retain an affiliation with the Church. People realise that technology cannot solve the hunger of the human heart. People are looking for something more satisfying than the consumer lifestyle. We see it in the handing on of the faith in the home, the appreciation of the importance of the family and in the work of teachers in the school. I am always impressed by the young people, despite our concern about the decline in sacramental practice. We see their involvement with S.H.A.R.E., their participation in pilgrimages, popular devotions, station Masses and all kinds of voluntary work.
Monsignor Fintan, your appointment will be a new beginning and I can assure you of the prayerful support of myself, priests, religious and the people of the diocese and, particularly, the prayers of the sick in our hospitals and nursing homes who are cared for so well. May God bless you.