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Irish Church’s new leader honored, humbled as he takes helm

Vatican City, Sep 9, 2014 / 08:54 am .- As Cardinal Sean Brady resigns at the customary age of 75, newly appointed Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland Eamon Martin says he is looking forward to shepherding his new flock.

“I genuinely feel honored to assume the role of ‘Shepherd’ in the Archdiocese of Armagh. I look forward to serving the people of sixty-one parishes in the counties of Armagh, Derry, Louth and Tyrone,” Archbishop Martin said in a Sept. 8 statement announcing his appointment.

“I feel humbled to be following in the footsteps of St Patrick, and like him, I pray for God’s strength to pilot me, God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s shield to protect me.”

Named a coadjutor of the Armagh archdiocese in January 2013, Archbishop Martin took up his role as head of the Church in Ireland on Sept. 8.

“Over the past 16 months I have been encouraged and inspired by the enthusiasm of our young people and the dedication of our teachers, the commitment and pastoral care given by our priests and religious, and the willingness of so many people to become actively involved in the life of their parishes and diocese,” he said.

Born in Derry in 1961, Archbishop Martin was ordained a priest for the diocese June 28, 1987, after which he served as assistant pastor at the cathedral of the diocese of Derry until 1989. He then taught at St Columb’s College in Derry until 1998.

He has also served as Secretary-General of the Irish Episcopal Conference, Vicar General of the Diocese of Derry and as diocesan administrator from November 2011 until January 2013 upon the resignation of Bishop Séamus Hegarty.

The archbishop has also held the position as a director of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, which was established following the revelation of the clerical abuse crisis in the Church in Ireland.

In his remarks on Monday, he said he hopes to put a “fresh heart” into the renewal of the Irish Church, and expressed his readiness to collaborate with the laypeople, priests and religious of the diocese.

“I pray that my heart can be more like the Heart of Jesus, burning with love for everyone,” he said, explaining that “Not far from all of us today are people who feel isolated or lonely; people whose hearts are heavy with worry, illness or anxiety,”

Perhaps there is also someone “whose heart is broken by grief or loss; a man or woman whose heart has grown colder because of some cruelty or emptiness in their lives – past or present,” the archbishop continued.

“Every day, then, as long as this today lasts, let us keep encouraging one another with the love and compassion of Christ.”

Archbishop Martin then pointed out that while there can be no doubt that numerous challenges will come, “I look forward with trust and hope in God to sharing with others the ‘Joy of the Gospel.’ Please pray for me.”

Archbishop Martin succeeds Cardinal Sean Brady whose resignation at the age of 75 was recently accepted by Pope Francis. He is a native of the diocese of Laragh in Co Cavan, and has served as leader of the diocese since 1995.

The cardinal faced criticism during his tenure to his personal role in documenting a case of pedophilia in 1975 in which the victims were sworn to confidentiality.

In a statement Monday, Cardinal Brady congratulated Archbishop Martin for his new role, and encouraged all to “rejoice and be glad” at receiving him as their new shepherd.

“I am pleased that Pope Francis has today accepted the resignation which I offered to him on the occasion of my seventy fifth birthday,” Cardinal Brady said.

“I pray that God may give to Archbishop Eamon in abundance all the graces he needs and I assure him of my help and total support at all times.”

Going on, the cardinal voiced that he is “quite confident that the people of the Archdiocese – priests, religious and lay faithful – will give to their new Archbishop the same whole-hearted support and faith-filled loyalty which they have always given to me and for which I will be eternally grateful.”

Archbishop Martin also offered his personal greetings to the leaders and members of other Christian Churches and faith traditions.

“I hope that, as Cardinal Sean did before me, I can share their friendship and their passion for the Gospel of Christ,” he said.

“I also send my good wishes to people of other faiths and traditions, and to civic and political leaders throughout the diocese, assuring them of my respect and cooperation with them in serving the common good.”

His Mass of installation will take place at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh at 7.30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 7, the Feast of the Holy Rosary.

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