March 2006 General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference

15 Mar 2006


15 MARCH 2006



The March General Meeting of the Irish Episcopal Conference concluded this
afternoon in Maynooth. The following issues were addressed during the meeting:

* Trócaire Lenten Campaign
* Supporting Irish Abroad (SIA) 2006 campaign – Irish in Isolation
* Education in Northern Ireland
* Road safety – A Duty of Care – A Prayer for Motorists
* All Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution
* Permanent Diaconate
* Appointments to the National Marriage Appeal Tribunal
* Fifth World Meeting of Families
* Ad Limina visit to the Holy See in October

Trócaire Lenten Campaign

The 2006 Trócaire Lenten Campaign focuses on Trócaire’s work in Nicaragua and on
the theme, the Rights of Children. The bishops in their dioceses are encouraging
people to support the campaign and resource information is available on

Supporting Irish Abroad (SIA) 2006 campaign – Irish in Isolation

The Chairman of the Bishops’ Commission for Emigrants, Bishop Séamus Hegarty,
highlighted the theme of the Supporting Irish Abroad (SIA) campaign for 2006.

Bishop Hegarty said: “The Bishops’ SIA campaign has had a three year focus.  In
2004, we specifically targeted the elderly Irish living in London, while last year
the emphasis of our pastoral support was on the undocumented Irish – mostly young
people – living in the United States.  I thank my brother bishops in the US for
their continued support and I hope and pray for an outcome that opens a path to
legalisation for the undocumented Irish living there.

“The target audience for this year’s campaign is different.  With St Patrick’s Day
on Friday, it is timely to bring to your attention the plight of many Irish people
who live in isolation, many of whom have no family of their own.  Therefore this
year’s campaign aims to encourage Irish people, living at home, to communicate with
relatives or friends abroad whose traditional point of contact may have ceased.

“Many of us may have elderly relatives abroad but who now find it hard to travel.
As they grow older the risk of isolation grows.  While in times past a brother or
sister may have maintained communication with them, now that responsibility falls
to a new generation, perhaps to a nephew or a niece.

“For this year we ask you to join in our effort by sending a letter, making a phone
call or in this era of cheaper travel, you might consider making a visit to the person
in question.

“I wish to commend the work of our many emigrant chaplaincies and emigrant service
providers whose outstanding efforts, in their various outreaches, is a testament to
the Mission of the Church.  I welcome also the commitment of Government to support
emigrants as demonstrated in its recent decision to establish a dedicated emigrants’
service via the Unit for the Irish Abroad at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“May the Virgin Mother, who together with her Blessed Son knew the pain of emigration
and exile, help us to understand the experience, and very often the trauma, of those
who are compelled to live far from their homeland, and teach us to serve them in their
necessities, truly accepting them as brothers and sisters, so that today’s migrations
may be considered a call, albeit a mysterious one, to the Kingdom of God, which is
already present in His Church, its beginning (cf. LG 9)(1), and instrument of Providence
to further the unity of the human family and peace (2).”

1. Vatican Council II, Lumen Gentium, Paragraph 9
2. Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi Vatican City 2004, Paragraph 104

See for more details on the SIA 2006 campaign.

Education in Northern Ireland

The Northern Bishops stated that there was great disquiet among governors, teachers
and parents at the present uncertainty in regard to many aspects of the proposals
concerning post primary education. The Bishops had stated in their submission to the
Review of Post Primary Education that there would be ‘educational chaos’ in 2008 if
there were not clarity in regard to admissions criteria, pupil profile and the curriculum.
Clarity is awaited.

Representatives of the Bishops and Religious, as Trustees of the Catholic Schools,
both maintained and voluntary grammar, had met with Ms Angela Smith, the Minister
of Education, to express the serious concerns of the Trustees in regard to the
proposed powers of the Single Education Authority for the employment of teachers
and the planning of school provision.

In the view of the Trustees this would diminish or indeed dilute the ethos of the
Catholic schools. The Minister assured the Trustees that there was no intention to
diminish or dilute ethos and she recognised the proven link between ethos and learning
outcomes. The Trustees will be entering into discussions with the Department of
Education on these crucial matters.

The Secretary of State also gave an assurance to ‘guard ethos’ when announcing last
week the setting up of a Strategic Review of Education to examine “in particular the
strategic planning and organisation of the school estate”.  Secretary of State Hain
stated that integrated education will be at the heart of this review which will also
consider “how we manage the other sectors in the system”.   Does this statement not
put “the other sectors” – such as the Catholic schools – at a clear disadvantage?

The question must be asked: How does this review sit with the establishment of the
Single Education Authority?

For all involved in education these are worrying and challenging times.  The challenges
must be met by the Trustees, Bishops and Religious, who hold the Catholic schools in
trust for the Catholic Community.

Road safety – A Duty of Care – Prayer for Motorists

The Bishops’ Committee on Family and Children discussed the issue of road safety in
Ireland and prayed for those who have suffered road related injury or loss of life,
and for their families. The Bishops stated:

Implementing road safety policy should be considered a social justice priority by
everybody.  In 2005, 399 road users were killed in the Republic and 110 were killed
in Northern Ireland.  Many of these deaths could have been avoided.  Road traffic
collisions are one of a number of preventable causes of deaths and serious injury
in our community.  

Many lives are needlessly lost and many people suffer unnecessary permanent life
changing injuries on our roads every year. As individuals, we have an obligation
to exercise a real duty of care to other road users by improving our driver behaviour,
and at a public policy level, this improved behaviour must be matched with effective
strategic planning and greater resourcing.

In ‘developed’ countries, policies are put in place in order to reduce such needless
loss of life and serious injury.  Ireland’s road safety policy is summarised by the
‘four Es’: Education, Engineering, Enforcement and Evaluation, along with a sustained
programme of communication and consultation with the community.

One of the successful hallmarks of a road safety policy is when it is underpinned by
a general recognition that we owe a duty of care to ourselves and to one another. Care
for one another in the community is a basic value which travels across different
cultures and different religions.  It is this duty of care that is then shared by the
State where it steps in to act for the ‘common good’.  Essentially an effective road
safety policy is another example of social justice in practice in our busy modern

Prayer for motorists before driving:
Let us pray,
‘Before I take my place behind the wheel
I pray, O Sacred Heart – Guide me on my way.    
Virgin Mary, Morning Star, from every danger guide this car.
Thou dear Lord who gave it to enjoy,
Grant that its purpose be to save and not destroy.

All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution

The Bishops’ Department of Pastoral Care noted and welcomed the decision by the
All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution, as contained in its Tenth Progress
Report: The Family, not to extend the definition of the family based on marriage as
contained in Article 41 of Bunreacht na hÉireann.

For a copy of the March 2005 joint submission by the Committee on the Family of the
Irish Episcopal Conference and the Office for Public Affairs of the Archdiocese of
Dublin, to the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution on the Review of
Constitutional Provisions relating to the Family, please see:
under the ‘Pastoral Letters/Documents’ link.

Permanent Diaconate

A Permanent Diaconate Working Party (PDWP) has been established by the Conference with
a view to preparing for the introduction of the permanent diaconate in those dioceses
in Ireland where it will be decided to have permanent deacons.

the PDWP will arrange a catechesis (information sessions) for priests and
people. Secondly it will introduce, implement and oversee elaboration of norms for
selection and formation of candidates for the permanent diaconate in accordance with the
General Norms as issued by the Holy See in 1998 and the particular norms for Ireland that
were approved in July 2005.  Thirdly, the PDWP will prepare for the implementation of the
norms prepared and approved by the Holy See concerning the ministry and life of the permanent

Appointments to the National Marriage Appeal Tribunal

There are four Regional Marriage Tribunals of first instance in Ireland and these are
based in Armagh, Dublin, Cork and Galway.  Marriage Tribunals make judgements on the
validity or otherwise of marriages.  The sole Appeal Tribunal is the National Marriage
Appeal Tribunal which is based in St Patrick’s College Maynooth, and its purpose is to
hear cases on appeal from each of the four Regional Tribunals.

The Bishops’ Conference approved new appointments to the National Marriage Appeal Tribunal
bringing the total number of judges employed by it to 13.  These appointments will have
the effect of reducing the time required to process appeals to this tribunal.

Fifth World Meeting of Families

Pope Benedict XVI will preside at the Fifth World Meeting of Families to be held in
Valencia, Spain from July 1st-9th 2006.

Inaugurated in Rome by Pope John Paul II in 1994 (UN International Year of the Family),
the World Meeting of Families takes place every three years, bringing families from
across the world together to pray, learn and reflect on the family as the domestic

This year’s theme is: “The Transmission of Faith in the Family”. The programme includes:
– A theological-pastoral congress targeting families, youth and seniors in separate
sessions (July 4th-7th);
– An international family fair, with exhibits, a forum for exchanging family experience
and recreational activities that encourage family leisure time (July 1st-7th);
– A festive meeting that will include family stories, musical and dramatic presentations
from all over the world and a firework’s display (July 8th);
– Sunday Eucharist presided over by Pope Benedict XVI, during which couples celebrating
their 50th wedding anniversary will renew their marriage vows.

The Chair of the Department of Pastoral Care of the Irish Episcopal Conference, Bishop
Christopher Jones said: “The theme of the World Meeting of Families this year: ‘Transmission
of faith in the family’, perfectly complements the issues addressed in the pastoral letter
for ‘Education in Faith Sunday’ on 5 February last, Nurturing Our Children’s Faith.  
The pastoral says: ‘Our experience tells us that the faith of children is best nurtured
when home, school and parish work together in partnership. Firstly and most importantly,
children learn about faith in the home’, while it goes on to say: ‘Their faith is supported
in the school by the hard work of teachers and chaplains, and by both priests and people
in the wider parish community.’

“While the Irish Bishops’ 2004 seminar ‘Supporting Marriage & Family Life’, which was
organised to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the UN Year of the Family, addressed
external challenges facing families, the theme of Valencia 2006 ‘Transmission of Faith
in the Family’ addresses a key initially internal aspect of family life: faith.”  

Bishop Jones reiterated: “The Church believes passionately in marriage as the source and
strength of family life, and indeed of the life of society.  Unlike any other relationship,
marriage makes a unique contribution to the common good of society, especially through the
procreation and education of children for life.  The Church is not, and can never be, found
wanting in its support for marriage and family life.”

The deadline for registration for the 2006 World Meeting of Families is 30 April next.
Interested families can contact Bishop Jones or their local diocese by 31 March. Bishop
Jones will lead a delegation of families to Valencia, from Sligo, for the World Meeting.  
Further information, including registration details, is available on

Ad Limina Apostolorum visit to the Holy See in October

The next ad limina visit by Irish Bishops to the Holy See will take place between the
16 – 30 of October next.  The last such visit took place in 1999.

The ad limina visit is designed to celebrate and strengthen the bishops’ communion
with the universal Church and with the successor of Peter, Pope Benedict XVI.  The visit
will involve a series of meetings that combine prayer, pastoral planning and personal
conversations with the Holy Father.

All Bishops charged with the leadership of a diocese are required to make an ad limina
visit every five years. The visit also serves as a reminder of a local Bishop’s wider
role, in communion with the bishops of the world.

The Bishops’ visit in October is known historically as the “ad limina Apostolorum”
visit – or “to the threshold of the Apostles” – a reference to the pilgrimage to the tombs
of Saints Peter and Paul that the bishops are required to make.  
Further information:
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)