On Tuesday, 8th June, the eve of the Feast of Saint Columba, the Bishop of Cork, Dr Paul Colton, dedicated a space in St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork which has been set aside for the remainder of the Decade of Centenaries (2012-2023), as a place for prayer and remembrance. As church buildings have been closed for much of the last 18 months, this opening has only become possible now.
Bishop Paul Colton said that he and the Dean of Cork, the Very Reverend Nigel Dunne, had given ‘a lot of prayerful thought’ to this as part of the Cork, Cloyne and Ross Diocesan Centenaries Commemoration and Reconciliation Project.
In the centenary period of the First World War, a constantly changing visual display of people from Cork, and with connections to contemporary Cork on all sides of that War, featured in the prayer space: Irish, British, German, Canadian, Japanese, American and many other nationalities too. As someone commented then ‘It is mesmerising; I cannot extract myself from the human faces and the stories told.’
‘This current period in the Decade – the Centenary of the War of Independence and, upcoming, of the Civil War – is very complex, raw even, for many people.’ said Bishop Colton.
Bishop Colton said:
We have seen how challenging and complex these commemorations are in some of the controversies that have already arisen. Understandably, many have very strong feelings. Yet, we must not lose sight either that at the heart of this we are commemorating the birth of our independence and our nationhood in Ireland.
In this dedicated space we have created a place where, we hope, in the context of the Decade of Centenaries, people can come to pray. Prayer is at the heart of what the Church does, and in their personal prayers here – thanksgiving, remembrance, sorrow, joy, for our country, for our place in the world today – it is between individuals and God who they remember and what they pray for.
In that sense it is a neutral space, but it is also a place that by its existence affirms the significance for all of us of these centenaries, as well as our place as a nation in today’s world.
At the heart of the space is a votive candle stand, especially commissioned and manufactured in Sweden, where candles can be lit and it is constructed in the shape of a globe, a reminder of Ireland’s place in the world today — with a large candle at the centre, a reminder of Christ, the light of the world.
Dean Nigel Dunne added:
Just as this space became a focus for memory and praying for peace when focussed on World War I, with all its complexities in relation to this country’s experience of it, this new installation is designed to help people to reflect prayerfully on the period of historic centenaries relating to our own national history with all its own complexities.
This period of what I like to call our ‘wounded history’ not only left behind some sad divisions but it also shaped the post-modern nation state that we have become. I hope all who come here will focus on praying for the healing of memories, for those who help to unravel some of the intricately interwoven stories of our past, for the gifts of true healing and reconciliation, and for all who shape the life of our state in the present.