‘Share the grace of sympathy and empathy’ – Archbishop Michael Jackson

Monday October 30th 2023

Archbishop Michael Jackson speaking at the opening of the CoI MindMatters Conference.

The Church of Ireland MindMatters Conference was held in the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Dublin, on October 20.

MindMatters is a three-year initiative from the Church  which aims to raise awareness of, and respond to, the mental health needs of communities across the island of Ireland.

The conference was opened by Archbishop Michael Jackson who, in his opening remarks, said

“What we all need to have and to share worldwide is the grace of sympathy and of empathy.”

The gathering, celebrating three years of the Church’s all–island mental health awareness initiative, took place at the end of a week which saw Al–Ahli Anglican Hospital, in Gaza, come under attack.  The Archbishop of Canterbury, who had been invited to address the conference in person, subsequently travelled to the region but was, however, able to speak to delegates at length through a video-call from Jerusalem.

Recalling that St Luke, whose feast day was marked two days previously, is the patron saint of physicians and painters, Archbishop Jackson described a situation in the Middle East in which hospitals were ‘in near-ruins’ and the landscape was ‘dismembered.’

Archbishop Jackson continued: “It’s always important for us to remember those who are enemies of one another, those who do not connect in body, mind or spirit particularly when they suffer.”  These individuals and communities felt that they were ‘under intense and inalienable pressure.’

With the images of hospitals and landscape in mind, he added: “And so, it is our Christian duty to hold these two potential pictures together, and surely it’s timely for us to be holding this MindMatters conference now because what we all need to have and to share worldwide is the grace of sympathy and of empathy.”

Archbishop Jackson said he fully understood the reasons why Archbishop Welby felt that he must be in Israel/Palestine at this time to support the Christians of that land and to hold before God all of the people who live there and who are suffering.  The Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough, he noted, had been supporting the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza over several years. “Some of us had the opportunity to be not only in Jerusalem and in the West Bank but also in Gaza – and to see the life and the conditions, and the human response and the spirit of resilience that the people have shown,” the Archbishop said.

Concluding and looking forward to an ‘extremely exciting and insightful’ conference, he led those gathered in silence to remember before God the Archbishop of Canterbury ‘and everyone who lives and makes a living and makes life work in that region from whatever tradition, from whatever nationhood, and from whatever position of suffering.’

A moment of silence followed with the response of ‘Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.’

Further reports from the MindMatters Conference will follow.

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