St Patrick was an 'undocumented migrant' says Irish archbishop

The Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin, is the most senior Catholic bishop in Northern Ireland.Reuters

St Patrick was an 'undocumented migrant', the Archbishop of Armagh has said in a message for the saint's feast day, observed today around the world.

The Primate of All Ireland, Eamon Martin, used his traditional annual message to drive home the plight of migrants and to urge Christians to care for them. He said: 'This Saint Patrick's Day, prompted by the situation of thousands of displaced people around the world, let us think about Patrick the "unlearned refugee" (as he once described himself), the slave in exile, Patrick the undocumented migrant.'

He continued: 'As Irish people, we cannot think of Patrick without acknowledging the enormous humanitarian and pastoral challenges facing growing numbers of people who find themselves displaced and without status in our world. This is so shockingly exemplified by the refugee crisis here in Europe. I invite you to pray for refugees and for all displaced families at this time and, wherever you are, to encourage the hospitality and welcome for which we, Irish, are famous the world over.'

Martin said: 'Saint Patrick's experience of isolation and captivity as a teenager transformed and shaped his whole life and his relationship with God. His lonely time as a slave on the hills of Ireland became a transforming experience, where he felt embraced by the fatherly love of God. The more he prayed, day and night, the more he came to realise that God was calling him to conversion and close friendship with him.

'Having once been "like a stone lying in the mud" he now felt as if God had picked him up and placed him at the very top of the wall!'

It was no wonder, he said, that Patrick was 'able to feel great empathy with the struggles of his people, especially those of his new converts in Ireland who were themselves captured and sold into slavery by the human traffickers of his day'.

He concluded: 'Centuries later Saint Patrick continues to inspire Irish people everywhere to speak and work for an end to similar exploitation where it is happening today.'

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