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Ireland's top Catholic highlights plight of refugees in St Patrick's Day message

by Aaron James

Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland Eamon Martin reminded Irish people that the country's National Apostle "first encountered Ireland as a migrant".

He said: "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."

More than 181,000 thousand people illegally entered Europe via the so-called Central Mediterranean route last year, while the number of those dead or missing after trying to make the journey has reached a new record each year since 2013.

Millions have been displaced because of drought, poverty and war across the world.

Born in Roman Britain during the fourth century, Patrick was captured during his teenage years by pirates and taken to Ireland to become a shepherd.

Archbishop Martin went on to say: "No wonder our Patron Saint 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.

"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."

He also said the prayers of the Church were with the families of those affected by a deadly helicopter crash off the coast of County Mayo on Tuesday.

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick died in the incident, while rescue crews have been searching for three men - Mark Duffy, Ciaran Smith and Paul Ormsby - who are missing.

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