the Glory of God the Father" was the theme of the Second National Conference on the Charismatic Renewal in Ireland, held in Dublin last weekend, at which Catholics and Protestants from North and South of the Border met together in prayer and praise, recognising their fundamental unity in Christ.
More than 5,000 Christians of many different denominations, including nearly 500 from Northern Ireland, attended the conference, held at the Royal Dublin Society headquarters. FIallsbridge.
In his short address of welcome, Mr Tom Flynn, the conference chairman. emphasised that people had not come to a "spiritual jamboree for the weekend. He said: "Here in Ireland, God is giving us another chance. He is turning people's hearts to -Him and mending our country and piecing us together. We have come to build one another up and in doing so give 'Glory to God the Father'."
In his keynote address on Saturday morning, Cardinal Leo Joseph Suenens, Primate of Belgium and one of the world's best known and loved Charismatic leaders said that the situation in Northern Ireland was tragic and dramatic.
Even though the mass media throughout the world had consistently pr.esented the violence as a religious conflict, it was not a "religious war". The fundamental issues were political and economic, and he asked for prayers to inspire political and economic solutions.
Cardinal Suenens said the Charismatic spirit was needed to help the Church confront the many problems of the world. 'The Church today needed "social pioneers as well as saints" and Christianity had to be "love in action, especially social action".
Humanity was threatened on all sides; great problems of economic injustice and social oppression endangered the human race. Men, however, would have to realise that they could not solve these problems on their own. God's help would he needed.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit — of prophecy, of healing and of discernment — were needed more than ever today.
"We need renewal," said the Cardinal. "The Church of today is wounded because of the lack of visible unity. Let us pray together for that unity so that we might be one.
"I believe that the solution of ecumenical disunity will not finally be the result of a dialogue between the Church of Rome and the Church of Canterbury or the church of Moscow.
"It will not be a dialogue between the Churches as such, but a dialogue between Rome and Jesus. Canterbury and Jesus. Moscow and Jesus, so that we can become more and more united in him."
The Cardinal ended: "As this happens we will become united with each other in Christ Always remain faithful to what you are, and don't be afraid of showing it, hut be respectful of different Christian traditions."
The Cardinal was given a prolonged standing ovation at the end of his address, during which three members of the Irish hierarchy — Bishop Edward Daly of Derry, and Bishop Dermot O'Mahony and Bishop James Kavanagh, both Auxiliaries in Dublin — were on the platform. During a Press conference at Dublin Airport, Cardinal Suenens told newsmen that he did not like the name "Charismatic Movement". He said: "I prefer to stress the Holy Spirit. the giver, more than the gifts which are not an end in themselves. It is a renewal of the Spirit and not a movement.
"Many Catholic bishops are adopting a wait-and-see attitude to the renewal", the Cardinal said. He thought this was mainly due to the fact that it was new, and that like anything new. it took time for it to be accepted.
lie added: "There is undoubtedly an element of risk involved, but I believe that Church leaders should be prepared for this." He emphasised that he saw the renewal as something necessary for the renewal of the Church. The institutional reforms brought about by the Vatican Council needed to be accompanied by a spiritual renewal.
Cardinal Suenens said he felt that the reforms of Vatican II were not proceeding as rapidly as they might.
Stressing the ecumenical dimension of the renewal and the importance of it. he said that by-Hinging people-together in prayer it was forging real links between them and deepening their common commitment to Christ.
The Rev Tom Smail, the new director of the Fountain Trust. told newsmen that he believed that the Charismatic Renewal in Ireland could help to bring about reconciliation between the Catholic and Protestant communities. A Church of Scotland minister, Mr Smail worked at Whiteabbey Presbyterian Church in Belfast from 1968 to 1972.
Conference workshops included: "An Introduction to the Charismatic Renewal" by Fr Gabriel Stibbles, OSA, Miss Fanny Robertson and Sister Marian Scena; "Baptism in the Holy Spirit" by the Rev. David Baillie and Sister Mary O'Duf'fy, and "The Life in the Spirit" by Don Cullinan.
Tom and Ann Flynn and Rosemary and Roy Miller led a workshop on "Christian Family I.ife," specifically directed towards 'couples with families who are involved in the Renewal of the Holy Spirit.
Fr Martin Tierney, Chaplain at Dublin Airport, and Yvonne Cook, a Deaconess of the Presbyterian Church in Bangor, held a most interesting workshop entitled "After Baptism in the Spirit — What?"
Workshops on Sunday included: "Rural Prayer Groups"; "House Prayer Meetings"; "Reading Scripture as the Word of God" (given by Fr John Greehy, Professor of Scripture at Holy Cross College, the Dublin Diocesan Seminary); and "Power to Witness", during which Michael Cullen, Larry Hogan and.Fred Hacker testified how God had led them to-wittiess to Him in their everyday lives.
Michael Cullen, who has a wife and five children, was deported from the United States because of his active op
position to the war in Vietnam.
Outstanding among the workshops was one on "Spiritual Gifts" led by the Rev Cecil Kerr, former Church of Ireland Chaplain at Queen's University, Belfast, who now runs the Christian Renewal Centre at Rostrevor, Co Down which he founded to help to bring renewal and reconciliation to Ireland, and Fr Christopher O'Donnell, 0 Carm, Assistant Provincial of the Carmelite Fathers.
At present there are estimated to be more than 150 weekly prayer meetings in Ireland with an overall attendance of between eight and ten thousand.
An important aspect of the Renewal in Ireland from its beginnings on January 4, 1972, when a group of 12 people came together to pray in the front parlour of Kimmage Manor, the seminary of the Holy Ghost Fathers in Dublin, has been its ecumenical dimension with Christians from many denominations coming together to pray for peace in Ireland — something not often mentioned in news reports, which usually concentrate on killings, shootings, bombings and destruction.