To mark World Communications Day 2019, a seminar was held today in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, entitled: ‘Believers in the Digital World: Opportunities for Mission’.  Senator Joan Freeman chaired the seminar and Archbishop Eamon Martin delivered the opening address.  A video interview with Archbishop Martin, and the seminar brochure, are available on the home page of

World Communications Day 2019 will be celebrated by the universal Church this weekend on Ascension Sunday, 2 June.  Today’s seminar has been particularly informed by Pope Francis’ 2019 message for WCD We are members one of another (Eph 4,25).  From network community to human communities; by the Holy Father’s final address in February at the Vatican meeting on ‘The Protection of Minors in the Church’; and, by the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit To Young People and to the Entire People of God, which was published in March.  Those attending included members of the clergy, religious, diocesan communications officers, seminarians and representatives from the national seminary, students, second and third level chaplains, parish pastoral workers and volunteers, Catholic youth ministers and youth organisations, journalists, representatives of Catholic education, digital media experts and practitioners. 


·         Archbishop Eamon Martin is Archbishop of Armagh and Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Dromore; Primate of All Ireland; President of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference and chair of the Bishops’ Council for Communications.

Opening address on faith in the digital world by Archbishop Eamon Martin to mark World Communications Day 2019

Saint Patrick College, Maynooth


·         Ten principles offered to guide the presence of believers on the “digital highways” – Archbishop Eamon Martin

The screen time facility on my mobile phone and tablet offers me a detailed analysis of the time I’ve spent on my favourite apps, on social media, browsing the internet, and working on speeches like this one.  It tells me whether my total screen time is up, or down, on last week – which invariably leads to feelings of either guilt or self-congratulation.  For Lent I tried to go off all screens between nine at night and nine in the morning – but failed miserably!

Out at the Synod of Bishops on Youth in Rome last October we considered the massive impact of ‘screen culture’ – including not only mobiles and tablets, but also cinema, mini-series and video gaming.  We spoke about the exploitation of young people online, about the harvesting of their data, identity theft and scams.  However the young people present pleaded with us that the Church should not just stand outside the digital world, looking in with disapproval.  The Church should also recognise that Digital Technology, and especially Social Media, is now a permanent part of the life and identity of the majority of young people, and increasingly so, of all of us.  The distinction between the “online” and “offline” world is becoming more and more nebulous.

Nearly sixty years ago in 1963, the decree Inter Mirifica (Amongst the Wonderful) on the media of social communications, was published by the Second Vatican Council to set a positive tone for the Church’s interaction with new media – here are its opening paragraphs:

“1. Among the wonderful technological discoveries … made with God’s help, the Church welcomes and promotes with special interest those which …. have uncovered new avenues of communicating most readily news, views and teachings of every sort. The most important of these inventions … can, of their very nature, reach and influence, not only individuals, but the very masses and the whole of human society, and thus can rightly be called the media of social communication.

2. The Church recognizes that these media, if properly utilized, can be of great service to mankind, since they greatly contribute to entertainment and instruction as well as to the spread and support of the Kingdom of God. The Church recognizes, too, that people can employ these media contrary to the plan of the Creator and to their own loss. Indeed, the Church experiences maternal grief at the harm all too often done to society by their evil use.”

Today’s seminar takes place in that positive, yet inquiring spirit.  We are here to mark the message of Pope Francis for the 53rd World Communications Day which takes place this weekend on Ascension Sunday.  I begin by losing our key question, “Can we be believers in the digital world?” – “Believers”, firstly in the sense that we recognise the positive and powerful possibilities of digital media for education, exchange of information, ideals, and interests.  But “believers” also in another sense, as “believers” in God, for whom the digital world presents a vast “new continent” for meeting people, entering into dialogue with them, and opening up for them an encounter with Jesus Christ, and the challenges and the Joy of His Gospel.

Pope Francis sets out the context of his message clearly in the opening section:

“Ever since the internet first became available, the Church has always sought to promote its use in the service of the encounter between persons, and of solidarity among all. With this Message I would like to invite you once again to reflect on the foundation and importance of our being-in-relation and to rediscover, in the vast array of challenges of the current communications context, the desire of the human person who does not want to be left isolated and alone”.

Pope Francis continues,

“Today’s media environment is so pervasive as to be indistinguishable from the sphere of everyday life. The Net is a resource of our time. It is a source of knowledge and relationships that were once unthinkable. … If the Internet represents an extraordinary possibility of access to knowledge, it is also true that it has proven to be one of the areas most exposed to disinformation and to the conscious and targeted distortion of facts and interpersonal relationships, which are often used to discredit”

We will have an opportunity this morning to explore four particular perspectives:

Two young people, Emma Tobin and Oisín Walsh, will describe their peer group’s experience of the digital environment; Brenda Drumm of the Catholic Communications Office will reflect on faith and evangelisation in the digital space.  To help us consider some of the more difficult social media challenges, Detective Sergeant Mary McCormack will look at the challenge to society of online abuse and Darren Butler, of the Bishops’ Pastoral Response to Substance Misuse, will ask how parishes might addressing internet addiction.

Five years ago, I offered ten principles to guide the presence of believers on the “digital highways”.

1. Be positive, communicating the ‘joy of the Gospel’.

2. Strictly avoid aggression and ‘preachiness’ online; try not to be judgemental or polemical.

3. Never bear false witness on the internet.

4. Fill the internet with charity and love, continually seeking to include a sense of charity and solidarity with the suffering in the world.

5. Have a “broad back” when criticisms and insults are made – when possible, gently correct.

6. Pray in the digital world! Establish sacred spaces, opportunities for stillness, reflection and meditation online.

7. Establish connections, relationships and build communion, including an ecumenical presence online.

8. Educate young people to keep themselves safe and responsible online, particularly in light of cyberbullying and the prevalence and accessibility of pornography and online gambling.

9. “Give a soul to the internet”, as Pope Benedict XVI  once said – at all times witness to human dignity online.

10. Be missionary, remembering that, with the help of the internet, a message has the potential to reach the ends of the earth in seconds!


With these principles in mind, I invite you to consider how we CAN be “believers” in the digital world, and, conversely, reflect on the impact which the digital world is having on Church, society, on family, on interpersonal relationships and on each of us as individual persons.

Clearly a screen culture which massively prioritises “image” over listening and reading, will influence the missionary endeavours of all the great world faiths whose members have been traditionally known as “People of the Book”.

The digital world also has obvious implications for our contemporary understanding and use of key concepts like love, friendship, community, gathering, solidarity with others, especially the vulnerable.

Some speak of the “ME” or “selfie”  generation, which needs instant gratification and is nurtured by the narcissism and voyeurism of social networking – the extremes of this are seen in young people constantly checking their phones for likes and friends, obsessing for hours over their profile picture, or the macabre filming and instant sharing of tragic incidents like road accidents or the aftermath of terrorist attacks.  What can believers say into this space?  How might we understand more fully the driving forces within cyberspace and witness by our example to a Christian, healthy, and wholesome presence online?

Pope Francis refers to the danger of creating “closed circuits” on the Net, with people all thinking alike and easily manipulable by powerful outside interests which can “facilitate the spread of fake news and false information, fomenting prejudice and hate”.  He cautions on the other hand against the isolation and loneliness which can pervade our internet use, and “the dangerous phenomenon of young people becoming “social hermits” who risk alienating themselves completely from society”.  How can Christians build bridges across the divides online, be reconcilers, peacemakers, comforters, instilling hope, love, faith?

I suggest that Church and society has much to evaluate and reflect on in these areas.  However the sheer exponential speed of development of the World Wide Web, the immensity of questions raised about our identity and relationships and belonging, not to mention the huge ethical and moral questions it poses, can sometimes frighten us from even going there.  Our distinguished chairperson, Senator Joan Freeman, will share with us the work which she, Dr Mary Aiken and others have been doing to encourage dialogue and legislation to better safeguard our children and young people online.

Before handing over to the chair to introduce our Working Groups I leave the final words again to Pope Francis from his Message for this Sunday:

“… If a family uses the Net to be more connected, to then meet at table and look into each other’s eyes, then it is a resource.  If a Church community coordinates its activity through the network, and then celebrates the Eucharist together, then it is a resource.  If the Net becomes an opportunity to share stories and experiences of beauty or suffering that are physically distant from us, in order to pray together and together seek out the good to rediscover what unites us, then it is a resource.

We can, in this way, move from diagnosis to treatment: opening the way for dialogue, for encounter, for “smiles” and expressions of tenderness … This is the network we want, a network created not to entrap, but to liberate, to protect a communion of people who are free.  The Church herself is a network woven together by Eucharistic communion, where unity is based not on “likes”, but on the truth, on the “Amen”, by which each one clings to the Body of Christ, and welcomes others”.

Thank you for your participation this morning and I hope that you enjoy and benefit from today’s opportunity for interaction and dialogue.


Archbishop Eamon Martin and Archbishop Richard Clarke on ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ prayer initiative


A few years ago, Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury initiated what he believed would be a relatively small-scale project, asking members of his own Christian tradition to pray “Thy Kingdom Come” with real effort and focus in the days between the Ascension and Pentecost.  These days between Ascension and Pentecost mark a spiritual interlude between Jesus Christ leaving the earth in his physical body at Ascension, and the day when the Holy Spirit came in power on his disciples at Pentecost.  And we are told in the Scriptures that the disciples spent these days in Jerusalem in constant prayer.


Praying “The Kingdom Come” can be a familiar phrase that trips off the tongue a little too easily, but it should never be such.  “The Kingdom of God” can best be understood as being the realm of God, that place where God is in full control, where God is completely supreme in the hearts and minds of his people.  Praying for God’s Kingdom to come is therefore not simply a prayer for the world (although it is that), but it is also a prayer for our own spiritual renewal and a prayer for the Holy Spirit of God to enter the lives of those we know and love in a new and powerful way.


We are asked in these days to make a specific effort within this prayer to “pray for five”.  This means praying intentionally for five people, but not necessarily those we instinctively pray for on a regular basis.  This “prayer for five” should be that God will bless the people for whom they have prayed and give them a deeper awareness of his infinite love for them.  It is not a condescending or judgmental prayer, but a simple act of truly Christian love and friendship.  We sometimes wonder what prayer is able to do.  There was a lovely reflection on the matter by Archbishop William Temple, “When I pray, coincidences happen; when I don’t, they don’t!”.


By God’s grace, what began as a simple local call for prayer has spread across almost all the Christian traditions and across the world.  Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby with other church leaders have asked Christian disciples throughout the world to be part of this focussed wave of prayer.  We now join in this call to prayer, coupling it with our own shared prayer to God, “ Thy Kingdom Come”.


+Eamon, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Dromore.

+Richard, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh
                                                             Archbishop Eamon Martin at Mass for the ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ prayer initiative

National Marian Shrine, Knock, Co Mayo


“I ask you to think of five people and pray that their lives may be touched by the power of the Holy Spirit and that the love of Christ may really take root in their hearts” – Archbishop Martin


In today’s Gospel Reading for the sixth Sunday of Easter, Jesus promises His disciples that, after He has gone and returned to the Father, He will send them a gift, so that they do not feel like orphans and so that their hearts will not be troubled or afraid.  That gift will be the Holy Spirit, which the Father will send to teach his people and to remind them of all that Jesus said and did when He was on earth.

At the final Mass of the World Meeting of Families in Dublin last August, Pope Francis remarked that it is “the Spirit of God, who constantly breathes new life into our world, into our hearts, into our families, into our homes and parishes.”  He said that “each new day in the life of our families, and each new generation, brings the promise of a new Pentecost, a domestic Pentecost, a fresh outpouring of the Spirit, the Paraclete, whom Jesus sends as our Advocate, our Consoler and indeed our Encourager.”

The promise of the Holy Spirit remains with us today.  That is why, especially during these final days of the Easter season, and as we approach the feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost, we can pray earnestly and with all our hearts: “Come Holy Spirit”!

The beautiful prayer to the Holy Spirit is perfect for these days:  “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.  Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.  And You shall renew the face of the earth”.

Friends, reflect with me on the sheer joy and confidence of that prayer!  We call on the Holy Spirit because we believe the Spirit can change us and change the world.  The Spirit can renew the face of the earth.  The Spirit can bring us new life, the Spirit can recreate in us what God wanted us to be in the first place!  The Spirit can “rejuvenate” us – make us young again!

Out at the Synod for Youth which was held by Pope Francis in Rome of last October, I suggested that we do not speak enough in the Church about the power of the Holy Spirit.  After all, it is Holy Spirit who “rejuvenates” the Church.

I said at the Synod that I’d like to hear more of the joyful language of the ‘new springtime’, the ‘new Pentecost’ which every Pope since the Second Vatican Council has called for.  As Pope Saint Paul VI famously said, “The Church needs her eternal Pentecost; she needs fire in her hearts, words on her lips, a glance that is prophetic (General Audience 291172)”.

I am convinced that the Spirit is already actively at work preparing us for a new springtime of growth and abundance in faith.

How can we encourage people to be more alert and open to the Holy Spirit, calling us and “gifting” us for the service of the Gospel?  Every day I pray for vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life.  But I also pray that all our lay faithful, especially our young people, will find “new life in the Spirit” and realise more and more that we are all called personally by Baptism and  Confirmation to be part of the “new springtime” for the faith.  It is the Holy Spirit who can enable us to embrace our own unique role in the new evangelisation.

In encouraging you, then, to pray “ Come Holy Spirit” in these days before Pentecost, might I also suggest – as other Christian Church leaders around the world are doing during these days – that you might pray another three-word prayer, namely: Thy Kingdom Come.

Of course we pray those words many times every day in the Our Father, ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, and afterwards as we continue, ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’.

When we pray ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, we imply that we want God’s will to be the motivation for everything we think, and say, and do, every day of our lives.  The two prayers ‘Come Holy Spirit’, and ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, work perfectly together, because it is the Holy Spirit, working within us, who helps to establish God’s Kingdom here on earth – a Kingdom of Love, of Justice, of Peace – a Kingdom where patience, kindness, generosity and charity are alive and well, and where selfishness, anger, oppression and violence are shunned.

How I long for the New Pentecost, for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit to transform and renew the faith in Ireland and rejuvenate our Church!

Remember the Kingdom of God is present whenever Jesus Christ is present.  Jesus Christ is “God-with-us” and if we accept Jesus in our hearts, then, with the power of the Holy Spirit, we can truly become witnesses and workers for the Kingdom of God!

I join with Pope Francis and the Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and with my friend and brother Archbishop Richard Clarke – the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh – in encouraging you to pray ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ in the coming days around Ascension Sunday and Pentecost Sunday.

In particular, we encourage you to choose five particular individuals and pray that they might make the best decision that anyone can ever make in their lives – to become followers of Jesus Christ.  I ask you to think of five people – not necessarily five family members – five different people, and pray that their lives may be touched by the power of the Holy Spirit and that the love of Christ may really take root in their hearts.

People sometimes ask me what is the proper way to greet an archbishop.  Well, the other day a little boy surprised me by holding up his hand and saying “High Five, Bishop”!  The Holy Bible often speaks of believers ‘lifting up hands’ in prayer.  So, in the final days leading to Pentecost, why not consider a different kind of ‘High five’?  Why not lift up your hand in prayer to the Holy Spirit, praying for those five individuals to become true followers of Jesus Christ.  Pray for them: ‘Come Holy Spirit’, ‘Thy Kingdom Come’.