Bishop pours cold water on ‘Temple’ burning ritual

Spectacular events have no lasting impact, says Bishop Donal McKeown.

One-off events like the recent ‘Temple’ burning in Derry, while perhaps healing for some, have no durable impact, according to Derry’s Bishop Donal McKeown.
More than 15,000 people attended the burning of the 70-foot tall carved wooden tower designed by the American artist David Best, who said he was aiming to give the people of Derry a neutral, cross-community space in which they could come together to reflect on their losses. 
Thousands visited and left personal messages in the structure in the week before it was set alight.
Dr McKeown says the £300,000 (€408,000) piece of public artwork “drew many people out of curiosity and for a variety of reasons”. 
“However,” he told The Irish Catholic, “I don’t believe that any or many saw it as a major reconciliation event, though I am quite sure that it will have touched some people as they struggle to come to terms with the pain that pervades so many lives – in Derry and in every community.
“The problem with one-off events is that they happen – and then there is absolutely no follow-up by the organisers, who walk away to the next event,” he added.
Asked whether churches might similarly provide cross-community spaces where people could reflect on their losses and share their pain, Dr McKeown pointed out that Derry’s Churches “do many things together”. 
As examples he cited the joint Good Friday Prayer Walk through the city, the March 26-27 Irish Churches Peace Project conference, food banks and other projects run by the Churches’ Trust, and the joint celebration of St Columba’s day at Gartan Lough. 
“The Temple burning has left a pile of ashes,” he said, “but the events of Holy Week have left a much greater legacy that is not just to do with a spectacular event.” 
Pointing out that far fewer people visited the Temple, whether during the burning or in the previous week, than come to Mass each weekend in Derry, he said, “I believe that the effect of the latter is much deeper and long lasting that the former!”