The Catholic Primate of All Ireland, Dr Eamon Martin has moved to defend young people being stigmatised for the spread of Covi-19 and suggested that while the irresponsibility of a few young people may have tarnished the image of all, that his experience of young people since the beginning of the pandemic is one of generosity and self-sacrifice.
Speaking at a Mass for the Dedication of Studies at the Catholic Chaplaincy, Queen’s University Belfast this evening he said: "a stand-out memory for me of life in university is that first day in College - with all its nervousness and anticipation; wandering and getting lost among historic buildings, libraries and lecture halls; student cards, clubs and societies; new faces the promise of making new friends. I’m very conscious that this year’s Dedication of Studies Mass is taking place in a very different context: with social distancing, sanitising and face covering; webinars and blended learning; studying and socialising from a laptop in Halls or at home."
He continued: "I know that university communities are sharing in the anxiety, disruption and uncertainty that has marked these months of pandemic. A first year psychology student told me recently that this is not what she or her friends were expecting from College. “It doesn’t feel real”, she said. And it’s upsetting for her that young people are being stigmatised for the spread of Covid19. At times the irresponsibility of a few has perhaps tarnished the image of all. But my experience of young people since the beginning of the pandemic has been of your generosity and self-sacrifice, your volunteering to help the elderly and isolated, your stepping up to serve in the retail and hospitality sector - not to mention the many students of medicine, pharmacy and nursing who have supported our health workers and carers on the so-called ‘front line’."
He said many students have shown great resilience and are making personal sacrifices to protect elderly and vulnerable family members from Covid-19.
He added: "These are stressful times for us all, and I am aware of the support and encouragement that you are quietly giving to each other, especially to friends and others who are fragile and struggling to cope, either mentally, physically or spiritually."