It was on St. Stephen’s Day, while we were still celebrating Christmas, that the alarming news reached us from South East Asia. An earthquake in the Indian ocean, measuring over 9 on the Richter scale, had generated a gigantic tidal wave which had wreaked havoc on the shorelines of a dozen countries. A new word, tsunami, came into common use. The initial fatalities were estimated at fifty thousand. As the days followed, the full magnitude of this catastrophe began to get sink in. The numbers of the dead could go to a hundred or even two hundred thousand, if a full account can ever be made.
People were numbed at the enormity of what had taken place. The pictures of devastation were shocking. Some began to question why a good God had not prevented it. Others wanted to know why no warning system had been in place for such natural disasters. But, a Dublin priest was first off the mark with this suggestion. We must create another tidal wave, a tsunami of generosity this time on the part of the world, to assist the victims and survivors in their hour of need.
Even though these unfortunate people were more than half a world away, the media coverage made them feel like neighbours. In the “global village” there are no strangers anymore in cases such as this. When Jesus was asked the question, “who is my neighbour?”, he told the story of the Good Samaritan. Then turning to the questioner he asked, “which of these three (the priest, the Levite or the Samaritan) was neighbour to the man in the ditch?” The scribe replied, “The one who showed mercy to him”. And Jesus said, “Go and do likewise”.
Your generous response was truly Christlike. It demonstrated a new and welcome sense of a shared responsibility for all humanity. Pope John Paul II widened our definition of neighbour in his Encyclical letter “Centesimus Annus” 1991;
Our duty to help is not limited to our own family, nation or state, but extends progressively to all mankind, since no one can consider himself or herself extraneous or indifferent to the lot of another member of the human family. Attentive and pressing concern for one’s neighbour in a moment of need – made easier today because of the new means of communication which have brought people closer together – is especially important with regard to our search for ways to resolve international conflicts other than by war. (Centesimus Annus No. 51)
This was such “a moment of need” if ever there was one and you, the people, responded magnificently.
Even though people are generally thought to be feeling the pinch after the Christmas shopping, money began to pour in to all the relief agencies. Trócaire is to be commended for being “on the spot” and ready to respond to the crisis immediately. You, the good people of Cashel & Emly, contributed €510,717.00 to the Trócaire Asia Disaster Church Appeal. This represents a contribution of €6.53 per head of population. I wish to thank you all, every man, woman and child of you, for being neighbours in the true sense, to the devastated people at the other side of the world.
I am reminded of the comment of Nora Lahy, the invalid in Knocknagow. Nora had been confined to bed for months but when she appeared for the first time under a tree on a sunny June day, the neighbours downed tools and came to greet her. “God bless them, everyone! Whatever be their faults, the want of a loving heart is not one of them”. Charles J. Kickham ended his novel, “But Knocknagow is gone!”. I am not so sure! I think the “little village” has gone global!
Most Rev. Dermot Clifford, DD,
Archbishop of Cashel & Emly.