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CHAIRDINÉIL Ó FIAICH

COAT OF ARMS
A graphic of The Cardinal's Coat of Arms

The armorial bearings of Cardinal Tomas O Fiaich show the arms of the Archdiocese of Armagh in one half of the shield and the personal arms of the Cardinal in the other.

The Archdiocese of Armagh is represented by the pallium on an azure background. It was on a journey to Rome to obtain the pallium that St. Malachy died in Clairvaux in 1148.

Cardinal Tomas O Fiaich's birthday was 3rd November, St. Malachy's feast day. He was the first Co. Armagh man since St. Malachy to have been appointed Archbishop of Armagh.

And, like St. Malachy, he, too, died in France.

The other half of the shield is dominated by the Cross.

It is erected upon a rock which recalls the foundation on which Christ promised to build His Church. The rock is also evocative of the Mass-rock where earlier generations worshipped God in times of persecution and of Creggan, the Cardinal's native parish (An Creggan means the rocky place).

The raven's head was introduced because of the family name O Fiaich (descendant of the raven).

The O Fiaich family was a branch of Cineal Eoghain of which the most illustrious descendants were the O'Neills.

This provided the basis for the inclusion of the Red Hand of Ulster, a symbol of the northern province acceptable to all Ulstermen.

A branch of the O'Neill family, who have been the subject of many of the Cardinal's publications, ruled over South Armagh and buried their dead in Creggan graveyard (Urchill an Chreagain).

The inclusion of this symbol linked the armorial bearings of the Cardinal with those of his predecessor - Cardinal Conway had also included it because the Mac Con Midhe family had provided many poets for the O'Neills.

It is basically the Dextera Dei, the Right Hand of God, of which a splendid representation occurs on Muiredach's Cross, Monasterboice.

It also finds expression in the Breastplate of St. Patrick - "Lamh De dom choimirce" (God's hand protect me).

The Cardinal's motto, "Fratres In Unum" (Brothers together) was taken from Psalm 133 (132) - "How good, how delightful it is for all to live together like brothers".

It expressed the Cardinal's intention to work for peace, fraternity and friendship among all Irishmen and among his fellow human beings everywhere.



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