President Michael D. Higgins has told Irish missionaries in Peru that they present “the values of Ireland at their very best” through the “joy, practical help and hope” that they bring to disadvantaged communities in Latin America.
President Higgins is currently on a 12-day trip, encompassing Peru, Colombia and Cuba, to celebrate the historic connections between Ireland and Latin America.
In Lima he was greeted by Irish missionaries with a rendition of Amhrán na bhFiann at an informal gathering at the headquarters of the Missionary Society of St James the Apostle, headed by Limerick man, Fr David Costello.
The President told the missionaries he was “very privileged” and “so pleased” that they were able to gather to meet him at short notice. “It is very important for you to know that as President of Ireland, it makes my heart lift to know there are people who are working to create hope where it doesn’t exist and where hope does, that spark is there, to make sure it is a bright flame that keeps people going,” he said.
“You bring so much joy but practical help, and you bring hope, and you indicate what I think is the values of Ireland at their very best.”
President Higgins said he is “moved” whenever he hears Pope Francis speaking out against “those models that are failing not just the poor but failing humanity” and “to think that you are on the ground doing all of these things and putting them into practice”.
When the President last visited Lima in 1987 he stayed with the Columban Fathers, who he said “were doing their best to support communities of the poor and those families affected by the economic policies of the day”.
Co. Mayo priest Peter Hughes SSC, who has collaborated with Mr Higgins since then in defending the rights of the indigenous people of the Amazon basin, told The Irish Catholic that the President’s words offered the missionaries a real “boost” in their work.