Mairead McGuinness, MEP for Louth and first Vice-President of the European Parliament on Saturday (13th May) officially launched a fundraising initiative to save Collon Church of Ireland Church, a deeply historical building dating from 1813, by raising at least €50,000 this year to help re-slate the roof of the Church, the full cost of which is estimated to be of the order of €150,000.
The MEP who has specific responsibility for the European Parliament’s dialogue with churches, said it was an honour to be involved. “Churches are at the very heart of communities, being not just places of worship but also where friends and neighbours come to meet, greet and share in what’s happening in each other’s lives.”
She said Collon Church has played this role in the community for over two centuries. “We’re here today because we want to see that continue long into the future,” she said. And she said the Russian Orthodox graves at the Church were yet another ecumenical component.
Turning to her role in relation to dialogue with the churches she said such was critically important across all Member States. She recently received a delegation of European Orthodox Church leaders from Greece, Romania and Russia.
“They were strongly convinced of the need to protect and preserve historic church buildings. During the political strife of the 20th century, much damage was done to what they described as “our common European cultural heritage”, whether out of wanton ideological destruction by atheistic communist regimes, or the terrible inter-community wars in the Balkan region.”
Ms McGuinness said she recently met with the Islamic leader (Grand Mufti) of Bosnia. “He told me emotionally of the horrors of Srebrenica; but he also spoke of the efforts of religious leaders to rebuild community relations after the war ended. It is a story that we in these border regions can relate to,” she said.
She said the EU recognises the unique contribution that Churches and religious communities make in our societies. And the EU wishes to maintain an open and regular dialogue with faith groups.
Collon Church was commissioned by Speaker John Foster the last Speaker of the pre 1800 Irish House of Parliament and built by Daniel Augustus Beaufort a noted architect. It was modelled on Kings’ College Chapel in Cambridge and is unique in Ireland.
Ms McGuinness commended John Rountree, Chairman of Friends of Collon Church and all the local community for their efforts to maintain the building.