By A Staff Reporter
The Catholic Institute for International Relations today publishes an important leaflet on the subject of Northern Ireland. It appears as Comment 11, the Institute's latest publication of its kind. and does much to fill the vacuum after the border poll in . Ulster.
The appearance of the leaflet has been timed to anticipate the Day of Prayer for Northern Ireland on Sunday, March 18: The decision to hold such a Day of Prayer was taken at the last meeting of the English and Welsh Bishops.
It was felt that the Day of Prayer should he distinguishable from Peace Sunday, the objective of peace in Ulster being so close to home. The actual date was chosen by Cardinal Heenan. and plans for each Diocese are being made known this week in accordlance with directives being sent out by the Bishops. • It was hoped that the Day of Prayer should be as ecumenical in flavour as possible.
Ecumenical cooperation is one of the features strongly stressed ill the CIIR Comment I1, which laments: "In England. public reaction over the years has been astonishingly passive, seemingly paralysed by the spiral of violence. Within the Christian community. the matter is prayed a bout but seldom disc ussed. References to Northern Ireland Profs the Platform or the pulpit have been minimal."
'rho leaflet takes up some of the themes of "What Can I do about Northern Ireland?" issued at the time of Peace Sunday. And it goes on to review certain historical and sociological data not always given such detailed attention. "Because of the English/Irish nature of the Catholic church in this country, Catholics particularly find it difficult to discuss the matter openly and within the one community are the tribal loyalties which in Northern Ireland are more usually relerred to as 'Protestant' and
On the one hand, there are the Catholics. whether of Irish descent or not, who do not feel any identification and do not wish to be identified with the Catholic community in Northern Ireland. Indeed. the position of the Catholic community in Northern Ireland represents to some English Catholics all the things from which they have struggled to free themselves: underprivilege, poverty, narrow see tarianism, clericalism, perhaps even Irish nationalism.
On the other hand, there arc many Irish Catholics in England who feel closely identified with the Catholics in the North and who see the present situation as a continuation of the struggle which has been going on for cen tunes, and one which the British have never fully faced up to Either way communication on the subject of Northern Ireland is not easy.
"But if Christians in England. removed from the actual conflict. find it impossible to discuss the situation, what right have we to hope that the Northern Irish themselves will find peaceful solutions to their problems? It is in an attempt to encourage discussion of the subject that this paper has been prepared.
"It does not provide a chronological account of events nor does it propose remedies; rather it attempts to provide a framework of reference for the present situation and the background to it."
The leaflet concludes that:
"Bearing witness has to involve more than heaping blame on the heads of a few extremists — it lin. [Ave inquiring of the more Wealthy individual christian how they earn and spend their money. Whom they employ and whom they legislate for.
"Churches in Britain could help by acknowledging the extent of British responsibility for the situation in Northern Ireland and the political implications of that involvement. Voluntary agencies too can best help. not by dissipating resources in ephemeral attempts at social intercourse. but by channelling resources through bodies already active in the field of community development and in the creation of employment in specific areas.
"The `adoption' of such areas by parishes could ensure a longterm benefit from so much good will. The Churches, in Ireland and elsewhere. are in a unique position to promote dialogue between opposing factions and funds might usefully be directed towards creating a framework in which such a dialogue could take place.
"For it is only in the work of reconciliation that any hope for the future lies.