Archbishop Charles Brown, the Papal Nuncio to Ireland, has suggested that the Irish need reflect on the deep Catholic faith practiced by their ancestors for centuries.

The Vatican’s representative in Ireland commented on the fact that Ireland had “passed through periods of incredible trial” during the last 15 centuries and each time it emerged “stronger, purified and ever more faithful to the Lord”.

Brown said the Irish people needed to ask why it was that “prior generations were able to pass on their faith in situations of extreme hardship – in times of persecution, famine and even forced emigration – while, in our own time of relative comfort and ease, the faith is not always being handed on."

“Some would say that this was because prior generations were more ignorant than we are or that they held on to their faith because they had nothing else. I have real problems with that kind of explanation.”

A recent poll showed that Ireland is abandoning religion faster than any other country in the world.

Speaking to the Catholic Bishops’ Intercom magazine, Brown asked whether this collapse of faith could be because of the “way in which we live in modern western societies makes us less sensitive to spiritual realities? Could it be, for example, that filling every hour of every day with music or television or internet or video games or texting, leads to a kind of spiritual insensitivity or numbness?”

He referred to St Maximilian Kolbe, who died at Auschwitz during World War II. He “diagnosed the spiritual disease of our times as indifferentism . . . that it really doesn’t matter too much what a person believes”.

Brown said he hoped the Year of Faith, which began in October, would “counteract that idea.What we believe is . . . of the highest importance.”

During the interview Brown also spoke about his experience meeting survivors of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of members of the clergy in Ireland. He said, “I can testify it is impossible to listen to their stories without feeling the deepest anguish and sorrow for what they have experienced."

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