Catholic Church head to pray for no campaigners

The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland has said he will pray for the "courageous" no campaigners in the abortion referendum.

Archbishop of Armagh and primate of all-Ireland Eamon Martin declared that every human life was precious and the lives of the unborn also needed protection.

The archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said the church, which campaigned for a No vote, was seen by many as weak in compassion.

Archbishop Eamon Martin said: "This weekend at Mass I will give thanks in prayer for the many courageous 'missionaries for life' who made such a huge effort to remind us that in pregnancy we are dealing with two lives - both in need of love, respect and protection."

He added: "Every human life remains beautiful, every human life remains precious. Every human life remains sacred."

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Ireland's traditionally conservative and Catholic-dominated society has been transformed in recent decades, with referenda since 1980 voting to accept divorce, same sex marriage and now abortion.

Contraception has also been legalised.

The church has been rocked by a series of clerical sex scandals and the endemic abuse of young people in religious-run institutions over many decades.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said: The challenge of witnessing to Jesus Christ in today's world is not an easy one.

"Many will see the results of Friday's referendum as an indication that the Catholic Church in Ireland is regarded today by many with indifference and as having a marginal role in the formation of Irish culture.

"The Church that is called to make present the Jesus who is full of mercy and compassion is seen by many as somehow weak in compassion."

The bishops played a low-key role during the referendum campaign, but made clear they believed the practice was immoral.

Proponents of reform, including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, characterised it as the compassionate choice for thousands of women who travelled to the UK for terminations or took illegal pills obtained without Irish medical advice.

The archbishop of Dublin said: "The Irish Church after the referendum must renew its commitment to support life."

He said it must be pro-life in deed, bestowing loving care for human life at any stage.

"That loving care includes support to help those women who face enormous challenges and who grapple with very difficult decisions to choose life."

He said pro-life meant helping those whose lives are threatened by violence, who cannot live full lives because of economic deprivation, homelessness and marginalisation.

"Pro-life means radically rediscovering in all our lives a special love for the poor that is the mark of the followers of Jesus.

"Reshaping the Church of tomorrow must be marked by a radical rediscovery of its roots."

The Church of Ireland's Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, envisaged an outworking of democracy which can initiate a real and lasting acknowledgement of the unborn in Irish society, "an acknowledgement that needs to extend over many decades when stigmatisation has too often been the default setting of response".