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A vibrant civic society in Ireland today: The role of the Church


Wednesday, March 8, 2023, 19:00 - 21:00


Benburb Priory 10 Main Street Tyrone Dungannon BT71 7JZ and Online


Free online and in-person - Booking essential

Church of Ireland Archbishop John McDowell will share his views on the Church's role in the development of civic society.

The Royal Irish Academy and Benburb Priory are delighted to present this talk by Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, John McDowell who will share his views on the Church's role in the development of civic society. Andrew Mayes MRIA, Former Erasmus Smith's Professor of Hebrew at Trinity College Dublin will introduce the speaker.

Civic society in Ireland, north and south, is in the middle of a process of transformation. How will the experiences of the pandemic, environmental crisis, population diversity, and constitutional restlessness be met? These are not merely policy problems to be dealt with by politicians. Indeed, no political solutions to such challenges are possible without civic action too. 

If the civic is the bringing together of individual need with collective interest, the Church has a role to play. For, if we choose to follow Christ, we carry the deepest civic responsibility: to love our neighbour as ourselves. From this starting point, this lecture considers the overlapping concerns of Church, state and civic society in Ireland today. The mode and manner of the Church’s voice in society has rightly changed. But it retains a prophetic role - although this has been misunderstood and misused in the past. This lecture reflects on what such a role requires and contributes. At heart it needs to be anti-sectarian in every sense. Recent joint actions by Church Leaders (including the St Patrick’s Day Statement of 2021), for example, show the need for such leadership as people on this island continue to carry history's divisive burden. 

This lecture will also be a celebration of the hope offered by the civic virtues evident in Ireland, inside and outside the churches. The Church is one of many parts in the body collective of Irish society. It has a particular role to play in ensuring this long moment of socio-political change is not one of societal breakdown but breakthrough. 

Our speaker

The Most Reverend John McDowell was born in Belfast in 1956 and educated at Queen’s University, Belfast, the London School of Economics and Trinity College, Dublin. He worked in the private sector until studying for Orders and was ordained in 1996. He was elected Archbishop of Armagh in March 2020 and translated to his new Office on 28 April in the same year. He was Bishop of Clogher 2011-2020. The Archbishop has been involved in the ministry of reconciliation all of his adult life and has played a prominent role in Ecumenical affairs in Ireland and internationally. He has a strong interest in the arts, particularly theatre and poetry.

We ask that you arrive to Benburb Priory no later than 6.45pm so that we can ensure everyone is seated before the live stream begins at 7pm.  

Refreshments will be served after the event.


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