December 2005 General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference

07 Dec 2005





The December General Meeting of the Irish Episcopal Conference concluded
its three day meeting in Maynooth today. The Bishops remembered in their
prayers the late Bishop James McLoughlin who died on Friday 25th November
At the press conference after the meeting, attended by the Archbishop of
Cashel & Emly, Dr Dermot Clifford, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese
of Dublin Dr Raymond Field and Sr Anne Codd, Resource Person, Commission
for Pastoral Renewal and Adult Faith Development, the following issues
were addressed:

* Christmas Message
* Child Protection
* Launch of the Bishops’ Commission for Pastoral Renewal and
Adult Faith Development
* The Irish Ferries Dispute
* Synod of Bishops in Rome

Christmas Message
The Bishops will send a Christmas message of support, in the week commencing
December 19th next, to the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, H.B. Michel Sabbah
in support of Christians in the Holy Land.

Child Protection
Following on the publication of the Ferns Inquiry Report the Bishops
expressed their commitment to implementing its recommendations. The
Bishops individually have engaged with the HSE regarding the child
protection procedures and resources that operate and exist in each diocese.

A representative group led by Archbishop Brady, met with the Minister for
Children Brian Lenihan and members of his Department on 30 November last,
to progress the recommendations of the report. The Conference was advised
that the discussion at this meeting was very useful and constructive.
The Training of Trainers Programme to implement child protection codes
of conduct in each parish is well advanced. 19 graduates were presented
with their certificates by Archbishop Brady on Sunday last at a ceremony
in Maynooth.
The new national child protection policies and procedures, Our Children: Our
Church will be launched on Monday 19th December next.  Our Children, Our Church
expresses the commitment of the Catholic Church in Ireland to the consistent
and determined implementation of up-to-date policies and procedures which
reflect best practice in the area of child protection.

Launch of the Bishops’ Commission for Pastoral Renewal and Adult
Faith Development
A new Commission for Pastoral Renewal and Adult Faith Development, and
its Advisory Board, were launched during the Bishops’ Conference meeting.
The Commission and its Advisory Board aims to support diocesan personnel
in developing and sustaining programmes of adult faith development. The
Chairperson of the Commission is Dr Jim Moriarty, Bishop of Kildare and
Speaking at the launch Archbishop Seán Brady said: “This launch is taking
place in a particular historic and social context. Our societies in Ireland,
North and South, have experienced in the last 25 years or so rapid economic,
social, political, cultural and religious transformations.  
We find ourselves, as church, in radically new environments, facing the
new challenges.  We live, for example, in new multi-racial, multi-cultural
“An inherited faith is no longer adequate in itself to meet the demands
of being a Christian in the world of today.  We need to generate far more
opportunities than those which exist at present.  All members of our Church,
especially adults, need to explore what they believe and what they commit
themselves to.  The materials and methodologies which are now available in
schools need to be developed for adult education, for sacramental preparation
and for training for ministries in parish and dioceses. There is a challenge
in this for parishes and dioceses, not least the challenge of generating the
funds that this work will require.  There is crying need for localised
opportunities for lay people to access education and training, in preparation
for this and many more areas of pastoral ministry.”
Bishop Moriarty emphasised the Commission’s strong connections with each
diocese as well as with the Conference of Religious of Ireland, the Irish
Missionary Union and the National Conference of Priests of Ireland.

Bishop Moriarty also acknowledged the support of the Knights of Columbanus
in making it possible to establish an office for the Commission
and Advisory Board with Resource Person Sr Anne Codd and with administrative
back-up from Ms Sandra Garry.
The Irish Ferries Dispute: Social Solidarity and Economic Efficiency-
A statement from the Irish Commission for Justice and Social Affairs
The moral dimension of the economy shows that economic efficiency and the
promotion of human development in solidarity are not two separate or
alternative aims but one indivisible goal.
(Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, section 332)

Recognising that morality and economics must go hand in hand for any society
that wishes to foster human development, the Irish Commission for Justice
and Social Affairs (ICJSA) adds its voice to those who call on all parties
in the Irish Ferries dispute to work towards a resolution that respects
the rights of all involved. In this regard, it welcomes the talks currently
taking place at the Labour Relations Commission.

This dispute raises complex issues that affect Irish Ferries and its workers,
Irish exporters and, possibly most importantly, the prospect of a continuation
of social partnership.  In addition, it draws attention to the way in which
we in Ireland treat migrant workers.  In responding to this dispute none of
these issues can be avoided.

In addressing this first issue, it must be acknowledged that labour costs
are a legitimate concern for any industry. Nevertheless, Irish Ferries is
a profitable company and the desire to maximize return on capital employed
ought not be pursued at the expense of the workers employed and in a manner
that could undermine societal acceptance of appropriate standards of
employment and rates of pay.  
Furthermore, in this context, the ICJSA notes with concern the potential of
this dispute to undermine the social partnership model of society.  There
are many who would hold that the economic prosperity of Irish society has
been built upon, and depends upon, social partnership.  
However, its importance for Ireland transcends the parameters of economic
considerations.  As a model for the organisation of society, social partnership
promotes an ideal of equity or fairness, and it is at least arguable that
this model of social partnership has in recent years gone some way towards
countering inequities in Irish society.  In this light, and conscious of the
potential of the dispute to undermine societal acceptance of the ideal
of social solidarity, the ICJSA offers its support for the day of protest
on December 9th that is being organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

The occasion of this dispute also raises the larger issue of the type of
welcome that we in Ireland offer to migrant workers.  Ireland has had its
share of emigration over the past one hundred and fifty years.  More than
most countries, it knows only too well how indiscriminate employers can
exploit migrant workers.  It also knows at first hand the suffering that
xenophobia and racism can cause to immigrants and their families.  

In the past five years Ireland has witnessed unprecedented levels of immigration.
The question is whether we can learn from our own history.  Society should
take care to ensure that immigrants to Ireland are not exploited but are
rather treated with a respect for their rights and are paid a just wage.
Apart altogether from any consideration of the moral correctness of such a
position, one would be foolish to ignore the danger that the exploitation
of low paid immigrants could lead to a large scale displacement of indigenous
workers.  History has shown that over tine, this generates a misplaced popular
resentment against foreign workers that in turn fuels racism.  If this were
allowed to happen in Ireland, the very foundations of a stable and civilized
society would be undermined.

At a time of economic prosperity when forced emigration is hopefully a thing
of the past, it would be a pity if Ireland was no longer perceived to be a
welcoming nation. Today, we have an opportunity to re-commit ourselves to
that Christian ideal which welcomes the stranger while ensuring moral equity
for all citizens.
Synod of Bishops in Rome
Archbishop Brady and Archbishop Martin reported on their participation at
the 11th Ordinary session of the Synod of Bishops (October 2005) on “The
Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church”. The
propositiones or recommendations presented by the Synod to Pope Benedict
XVI were inspired by the reform of the liturgy inaugurated by the Second
Vatican Council 40 years ago.
The Synod stressed the centrality of the Eucharist in all aspects of Christian
life, particularly with regard to the other sacraments, but also with regard
to the place of  Christians in society.
The Synod stressed the need to examine the manner in which the liturgy was
celebrated, looking at the single elements of the Eucharist (Liturgy of the
Word, Homily etc). Eucharistic Adoration was encouraged.
Among the specific issues addressed were the pastoral care of migrants, of
the sick, and of the divorced who have remarried civilly. The Synod noted
the need to respond to the lack of priestly vocations in some parts of the
world, asking that the question of more adequate distribution of priests
be examined. The Synod also referred to the need for coherence on the part
of Catholic politicians and legislators and their responsibility not to
foster or support laws not in conformity with the moral law.
It is hoped that Pope Benedict XVI will take up the propositiones in a
Pontifical Document during the coming year.
Further information:
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)