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14 Aug 2022

Irish archbishop wants to house refugees in Catholic Church's unused buildings

Irish archbishop wants to house refugees in Catholic Church's unused buildings

Irish archbishop wants to house refugees in Catholic Church's unused buildings

The Catholic Church is exploring whether some of its unused buildings in Ireland can be repurposed to accommodate Ukrainian refugees.

Primate of Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin said the scoping exercise was at its early stages, but he raised the prospect of empty church halls and school buildings being used.

“In all our parishes, we have invited our parish, pastoral councils and finance councils and the priests to consider if there are properties that we could make available for Ukrainian families,” he said.

“And I think that in the coming days and weeks there’ll be a lot of activity on the ground. I think our parishes would like to be at the forefront of this. We made contact with the department in Dublin at the bishops’ conference last week to say, ‘Look, what can we do to help?’

“I think this really will be an effort of the whole community here, both north and south, to open our hearts and open our doors in welcome for these refugees who have been through such horrors that we’re seeing on our screens.”

He added: “We’re at the early stages of scoping that out to see that if there is to be a large wave of people arriving here we want to be able to open our doors and welcome them as much as possible.”

Today (Wednesday March 16), Archbishop Martin and Church of Ireland Primate of All Ireland Archbishop John McDowell jointly encouraged people across the island to welcome refugees into their homes.

Archbishop McDowell said his church would also assess its vacant properties, but he stressed that the vast majority of its non-church buildings were already lived in by clergy, suggesting that using those homes would be the best way of offering direct accommodation to refugees.

“We have encouraged people to be as generous as they can in what they give but also in the welcome that they bring to people,” he said.

“And there are some people in the structures looking at if there are vacant properties that can be used and whatnot, but it’s much simpler and probably much more effective if simply people on the ground, whether they’re clergy, as I’ve done and registered for it, or others make their homes available for at least that six-month period and we are certainly encouraging people to do that.”

Archbishop Martin said he understood that people would have reservations about opening up their homes.

“That is why we need the support of social services, of government agencies to ensure that, you know, people are protected, people in their own homes are protected, but also the refugees, that they are comfortable, and that their needs are being looked at.” 

Both church leaders used their St Patrick’s Day message to urge world leaders to strive for an end to the conflict and to learn the lessons from the peace process on the island of Ireland.

“In some ways, war is a defeat for humanity,” said Archbishop Martin.

“And it’s a defeat for diplomacy and for dialogue and for politics. We all have to learn lessons about that.”

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