14TH MARCH 2007
The March General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference concluded this evening in Maynooth. If media require comment from a bishop on any of the topics below, please contact the Catholic Communications Office:
– (i) Fr Kieran Creagh; (ii) The Kiltegan Fathers; and, (iii) Irish diocesan priests working on the missions
– Bishops welcome Papal Letter on the Eucharist
– Trócaire Lenten Campaign 2007
– Proposed Constitutional Amendment on the Rights of Children
– Northern Ireland Assembly Election
– Irish pilgrimages to the Holy Land
– Intercultural & Anti-Racism Week
– St Patrick’s Day
– 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome
(i) Fr Kieran Creagh; (ii) The Kiltegan Fathers; and, (iii) Irish diocesan priests working on the missions
The Bishops asked that the faithful pray for the speedy recovery of Fr Kieran Creagh, from Belfast, who was released from hospital this week after being shot two weeks ago at his home in Pretoria, South Africa.
Bishops wish to extend their congratulations to St Patrick’s Missionary Society (“The Kiltegan Fathers”) on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the society. The Bishop of Cloyne, Bishop John Magee, will represent the Bishops’ Conference at these 75th celebrations which will take place this Sunday in Kiltegan, Co Wicklow.
On the fiftieth anniversary of “Fidei Donum”, the initiative of the late Pope Pius XII to encourage sharing of diocesan priests with churches in need of priests, the Bishops noted the longstanding magnificent response, by the dioceses of Ireland, in meeting the needs of sister churches in this regard. Irish diocesan priests have served in every continent in response to the vision of “Fidei Donum” and continue to do so to the present day. Priests are ably supported by an increasing presence of lay missionaries and especially by young students who selflessly give of their time during summer breaks to work in mission lands as witness to their faith.
The Bishops expressed gratitude to God for having inspired so many generous priests, religious and laity to give such outstanding witness throughout the world in the name of Jesus Christ.
Bishops welcome Papal Letter on the Eucharist
As detailed in a media release yesterday, the Irish Bishops’ Conference welcomed yesterday’s publication, written by the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, of the Post-Synodal Exhortation on the Eucharist, entitled Sacramentum Caritatis – The Sacrament of Love. Please see www.catholicbishops.ie for a copy of the bishops’ press release and also www.vatican.va for copy of the document Sacramentum Caritatis.
Trócaire Lenten Campaign 2007: “promoting gender equality in the developing world”
The Bishops welcomed the reinstatement of Trócaire’s advertisement on independent radio and television stations. Part of the mandate which the bishops gave to Trócaire at its founding included raising awareness in Ireland of the root causes of poverty and injustice in the developing world and our responsibilities as a people in addressing these, for example, child labour and third world debt have both been themes of recent Lenten campaigns. The Bishops said: “We encourage people to continue to support and generously respond to this year’s Lenten campaign.” See www.trocaire.org
Proposed Constitutional Amendment on the Rights of Children
The Irish Bishops’ Conference welcomes the current effort to find agreement on the most effective way of providing greater protection and giving proper and balanced expression to the rights of all children in Ireland.
Recent experience has demonstrated the complexity of developing such legislation and its wording, not least in terms of unforeseen consequences. These complexities are further accentuated when dealing with amendments to the Constitution. Our analysis of the proposed wording for the Constitutional amendment on the rights of children suggests that more comprehensive analysis and debate is required around all of the main elements proposed. We believe fuller discussion of the issues involved can only help to ensure maximum benefit for the children of our country.
Northern Ireland Elections
In line with the Church’s consistent teaching on democratic participation, the Bishops’ welcomed the prospect of a local power-sharing government being established following the Assembly elections in Northern Ireland.
Calling on all parties to build on the progress made in recent years, the Bishops said: “We ask people to pray for those politicians who must make difficult decisions for the future of our society as a whole. The prize of peace, stability and local accountability can be achieved when people work for the common good.”
Irish pilgrimages to the Holy Land
Following the recent visit to the Holy Land by Bishop John Kirby, chairman of Trócaire, and Bishop Raymond Field, chair of the Irish Commission for Justice and Social Affairs, as part of Coordinating Group of International Bishops in support of the Church in the Holy Land, the Bishops’ Conference supported the call from the Christian churches for more Irish people to come on pilgrimage to visit the Holy sites but also to meet with the ‘living communities’ who reside there.
Bishops said: “Such support would boost the local economy but also help reduce the sense of isolation which so many members of the Christian community experience as a result of the ongoing hostilities there. We also note with concern the increasing number of Christians departing the Holy Land to live elsewhere as a direct result of the conditions under which they are forced to live. At this difficult time, the importance of the traditional annual collection on Good Friday – which will be taken up shortly in Irish dioceses in support of the Church in the Holy Land – has never been more important to the welfare, and well-being, of the faithful living there.”
Intercultural & Anti-Racism Week
The Bishops’ Conference wishes to acknowledge and welcome that this week is Intercultural & Anti-Racism Week in Ireland, North and South. This year Intercultural & Anti-Racism Week is part of the 2007 European Year of Equal Opportunities for All. This year the theme of the week is: “Working to Improve Services to Minority Ethnic Groups” and it focuses on: health; education; employment; housing; and, policing.
In the context of Intercultural and Anti-Racism Week, the Bishops acknowledge the importance of the Scheme for an Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill (September 2006). The Bishops welcome the drafting of legislation to take account of the significant changes in recent years which have led to Ireland’s becoming a country of asylum and a country of immigration.
The Bishops said: “As a signatory to the Geneva Refugee Convention, Ireland has undertaken obligations to people who come to our shores seeking asylum. We applaud this commitment to provide protection for some of the most vulnerable children, women and men in the world today.”
St Patrick’s Day at home and abroad
How Irish society celebrates our national saint’s day this weekend is very much a reflection of who we are as a people. St Patrick’s Day is a holy day of obligation for Catholics and this gives us an opportunity to reflect on the life of Patrick and his positive contribution to our faith and culture, and, in addition, on our own responsibility to sustain this heritage. In the words of St Patrick: “Therefore may it never befall me to be separated by my God from his people whom he has won in this most remote land. I pray God that he gives me perseverance, and that he will deign that I should be a faithful witness for his sake right up to the time of my passing” (The Confession of St Patrick).
In the Bishops’ pastoral letter Alcohol The Challenge of Moderation, launched on 16 February for Lent 2007, Bishops encouraged people to discuss with friends and family the dangers of excessive drinking. The pastoral letter also suggests that at national level we might encourage people to refrain from, or alternatively to reduce, their alcohol use, say by one third or a half, during the weeks of Lent. We should be mindful that St Patrick’s Day gives other countries and cultures an opportunity to view Ireland and the Irish people up close. It affords us an opportunity to showcase all that is best about being Irish.
St Patrick’s Day has always been a special day for Irish people both living at home and around the world. The plight of Patrick, who himself was an emigrant, has been faced by many Irish people, over the generations, who have struggled to live and assimilate into new cultures. At this time we especially remember the current campaign of the ‘undocumented’ Irish in the United States who – while living on the fringes of society due to their status – they very much wish to be accepted and formalized into mainstream society for the common good. Also at this time, we now have – as a host nation to many new cultures over the last decade – a special responsibility to treat our new neighbours with the dignity and respect that they naturally deserve.
The Irish Bishop’s Committee for Bioethics, originally established in 1996, contributes to the development and understanding of an ethos, consistent with the values of the Gospel, in relation to issues of healthcare and bio-medical research. On 7 December last, the bishops published a response to the report of the Commission on Human Reproduction which – among other things – addresses the issue of using human embryos for experimentation. This response can now be viewed and downloaded on either www.catholicbishops.ie and/or www.healthcare-ethics.ie
Commenting on last week’s press advertisement concerning a consultation process which is being undertaken by the State’s Irish Council for Bioethics on stem cell research, the Bishops said: “Catholics – as citizens – cannot abdicate their responsibility to play an active part in the formation of attitudes and policies on issues which relate to the dignity and rights of the human person. With this in mind the Bishops encourage Catholics to participate in the public consultation on stem-cell research. Research on human embryos which involves their destruction can never be justified.”
50th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome
The Bishops have called for prayers to be said in all parishes on the weekend of 24/25 of March next, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome.
The Bishops said: “We should all be thankful for the achievements of the last fifty years in uniting peoples and nations in Europe. The relative peace, after the tragedy of two world wars, and the economic prosperity we have experienced in Europe over the last fifty years should be celebrated for what they are – a particular grace and blessing from God. It is to be hoped that the citizens and leaders of the nations that constitute the European Union will commit themselves to sharing the fruits of their success fairly and justly within and beyond the community. We call on all Christians to renew their commitment to the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that the message of the Christian gospel, which has helped to shape so much that is noble in European culture and life will continue to touch the hearts and direct the actions of the peoples of the new Europe. We share the hope expressed by the European bishops at the conclusion of their Synod in 1999, ‘in the context of the legitimate economic and political unity in Europe, while acknowledging the signs of hope seen by the attention given to the rights and to the quality of life, we sincerely hope that, in creative fidelity to the humanist and Christian traditions of our continent, there will be a guarantee of the primacy of ethical and spiritual values.’” (Synod of Bishops – Second Special Assembly for Europe, Final Message, 6: L’Osservatore Romano, 23 October 1999, 5.)
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)