June 2007 General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference

13 Jun 2007


13th June 2007

June General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference in Maynooth

The June General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference concludes today in Maynooth. The press conference for the Bishops’ Meeting was attended by: the Archbishop of Cashel & Emly, Archbishop Dermot Clifford; the Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, Bishop Colm O’Reilly; the Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh & Kilfenora, Bishop Martin Drennan; the Bishop of Dromore, Bishop John McAreavey; the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Dublin, Bishop Raymond Field; Monsignor James Cassin, Executive Secretary to the Bishops’ Commission for Education; Fr Timothy Bartlett of the Bishop’s Secretariat and, Mr Brendan O’Reilly, Executive Secretary to the Bishops’ Commission for Catechetics. The press conference addressed the following issues:
– Saint Charles of Mount Argus
– Mass for peace in Iraq and for the late Fr Ragheed Ganni and the three deacons who were killed in Iraq
– Visit of Patriarch Sabbah of Jerusalem to Belfast and Dublin
– Protection of unborn human life
– Catechetics
– Elections to the 30th Dáil and the Northern Ireland Assembly
– Prayers for trafficked and missing people
– Catholic Education in Northern Ireland
– Healing Through Remembering
– Bishops’ Conference Pastoral Letter on the environment
– New logo for the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference

Saint Charles of Mount Argus
Bishops welcomed the Canonization of Saint Charles of Mount Argus, which took place on the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity on 3 June last. Bishops were especially thankful to those pilgrims who travelled from Ireland to Rome to be present at the Canonization. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI: “May these new Saints accompany you with their prayers and inspire you by the example of their holy lives. May God bless you all!”

Mass for peace in Iraq and for the late Fr Ragheed Ganni and the three deacons
This year at 4:00pm on 1 July Archbishop Seán Brady will celebrate a special Mass for St Oliver Plunkett at St Peter’s Church, West Street, Drogheda. Prayers will be offered for peace in Iraq and especially for the late Fr Ragheed Ganni and the three deacons, who were shot dead after celebrating Mass in the Holy Spirit Church in Mosul in northern Iraq on 3 June last. Fr Ganni had worked and lived in Ireland, in particular at the pilgrimage site of Lough Derg in the Diocese of Clogher, during his holidays from the Irish College, Rome. Bishops call for prayers for Christians in Iraq and for a resolution of the conflict which has caused so much human suffering and death.

Each year thousands of pilgrims visit the Shrine in St Peter’s Church Drogheda, which is part of the Archdiocese of Armagh, to venerate the relics of St Oliver and to learn a little more about his life story. Pilgrims pray for the sick and troubled, for family and friends. They fittingly turn to St Oliver, martyred as a direct consequence of political, religious and social turmoil, to pray for his intercession concerning conflict areas at home and abroad.

Visit of Patriarch Sabbah of Jerusalem to Belfast and Dublin
On the invitation of the bishops’ overseas aid agency Trócaire, the Latin Patriarch and Archbishop of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, visited Ireland between 3 – 5 June last. His Beatitude is head of the Catholic Church in Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Cyprus.

Bishops endorsed the appeal made by the Patriarch at the ecumenical service for peace and reconciliation in Dublin’s Pro Cathedral on 5 June, wherein he said: “If we want to end terror and build security then we must end oppression, occupation and poverty … Palestinians want peace, but in order to have peace there must be justice.”

Protection of unborn human life

Recent cases that have come before the civil courts again raise the issue of the protection of unborn human life. Associated with these cases have been claims that funding for abortions outside the jurisdiction has been provided by statutory agencies. This is certainly an area that requires clarification.

A related development of concern is the type of media coverage given to stories of this nature. The media too have a responsibility to exercise moral judgement in the often invasive way that they pursue vulnerable family members in covering abortion related stories.

The teaching of the Catholic Church concerning the morality of abortion is clear. There is no reason that can justify the taking of the life of the unborn.

The fact that in many countries today abortion is a “service” that is “legal” and “socially acceptable” does not alter the reality that: “Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means is gravely contrary to the moral law” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2271).

All human beings, no matter how precarious their existence, should have their right to life upheld. To lessen this protection on the basis of an analysis of the quality of life would have grave consequences, not least for the future safety and protection of an unborn child with disabilities.

Conscious of their suffering and anguish, Bishops pray for the individuals and families in such cases. The Bishops’ agency Cura is available to support those experiencing difficulties while pregnant, see www.cura.ie.

National Directory for Catechesis:
Preparation of the National Directory for Catechesis Be Good News is ongoing. When finished the National Directory will be an essential companion of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and of the General Directory for Catechesis. It will provide religious educators, parents, teachers, faith formation personnel and catechists with a single point of reference for all aspects of catechetical instruction in Ireland, for content and pedagogy, as well as for methodology. Guímid rath Dé ar an saothar creideamhach seo.

Primary School Religious Education Syllabus:
Work on the first draft of a new Religious Education Syllabus for use in the Catholic Primary schools of Ireland is at an advanced stage. This new syllabus will replace the previous one which was written thirty years ago at the beginning of the 1970’s. Drawing on the insights of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and written in the spirit of the General Directory for Catechesis this new syllabus will be an invaluable aid in furthering evangelisation, religious education and catechesis.

Areas of concern:

The Episcopal Conference is aware of the importance of faith development in the lives of baptised adults. The primary place for such development is the parish and there is a need to support parishes in this task. Such faith development ought to take account of the culture of today. Some areas of that culture are open to gospel values; other aspects are not so welcoming. “The catechesis of adults…is the principal form of catechesis, because it is addressed to persons who have the greatest responsibilities and the capacity to live the Christian message in its fully developed form” (John Paul II, Catechesi tradendae).

Elections to the 30th Dáil and to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Following the recent elections to the new Dáil and to the Northern Ireland Assembly, Bishops offered their good wishes to all of those who were elected and expressed their hope for a society based on ‘the integral promotion of the person and of the common good’ (Compendium of the Social Doctrine, #391).

Drawing attention to the social doctrine of the Church, the Bishops said: ‘An authentic democracy is not merely the result of a formal observation of a set of rules but is the fruit of a convinced acceptance of the values that inspire democratic procedures: the dignity of every person, the respect for human rights, commitment to the common good as the purpose and guiding criterion for political life’. (CSD #407) The Bishops went on: ‘In their specific areas of responsibility (drafting laws, governing, setting up systems of check and balances) elected officials must strive to seek and attain that which will contribute to making civil life proceed well in its overall course’ (CSD #409).

In this regard Bishops highlighted the importance of providing adequate support, including positive incentives, which promote the family based on marriage as the fundamental unit of society. Bishops also expressed their concern about the continuing disparity between the economically advantaged and those who are disadvantaged, including those who find it increasingly difficult to afford a home.

Drawing attention to increasing concern about threats to social cohesion and the breakdown of community, Bishops reiterated the view that ‘The goal which all believers must put before themselves is that of establishing community relationships among people. The Christian vision of political society places paramount importance on the value of community, both as a model for organising life and as a style of everyday living’ (CSD #392)

Finally Bishops called on elected representatives – on both parts of the island – to implement policies supporting the dignity of the human person, which protect and sustain life, marriage and family and which continue to provide for – and adequately resource – faith based health and education services as these are integral to the values and spiritual well-being of many people in Ireland.

Bishops appreciated the increase in Ireland’s overseas development aid over the past number of years. It is hoped that the new Government will pursue reaching the United Nations development target of 0.7% of GNP within the timeframe and thus contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Bishops also acknowledged the positive contribution made by the Irish peace keeping forces and expressed the hope that the new Government will continue in its commitment to international peace keeping in areas of conflict around the world.

Prayers for trafficked and missing people
As recently as the General Meetings of June and December 2006, Bishops highlighted their concerns regarding the trafficking and trade of people and the need for legislative action and societal vigilance regarding this form of human exploitation.

Bishops ask the faithful to pray at home and at Mass for all trafficked, kidnapped, missing and exploited people. We should also remember to pray for their suffering parents, family and friends.

Bishops reiterated that the recruitment and exploitation of people – women, children and men – is a gross violation of human rights and is contrary to God’s Law.

Bishops said: “It is our aim to eradicate this immoral and criminal behaviour. We all have a serious Christian obligation to care for those who have become trapped or harmed in this way. The Government, having signed in April last the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, we call on the new Government to ratify this Convention in order to expedite its application into force.”

Bishops continue to support the Working Group “Action to Prevent Trafficking” which was established by members of Conference of Religious of Ireland and the Irish Missionary Union in 2006. Its objective is to raise awareness throughout Ireland on the urgency for the introduction of appropriate legislation to prevent trafficking and to ensure the provision of essential services to trafficked persons particularly an adequate “period of reflection”.

Catholic Education in Northern Ireland
The Conference gave its full support to the ongoing work of the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education (NICCE compromising of Bishops and Religious Trustees). In particular Conference noted with satisfaction the following points:

– the work done in the last academic year promoting Catholic Education – The Vision across the 550 Catholic schools in Northern Ireland;
– the discussions between the Trustees and the Department of Education for the establishment of a Council for Catholic Education which would provide support for the Trustees of all Catholic schools (Maintained and Voluntary Grammar) following on the demise of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) in April 2008. Bishops were clear that this NI body would be closely related to the Irish national Catholic Education Service;
– the active engagement and leadership of those Trustees, who have Post-Primary schools in Northern Ireland, with the Post-Primary Review and the Sustainable School Policy project. In the context of the demographic downturn, this will, in some cases, involve appreciable restructuring of the current provision;
– the explicit commitment of the Northern Bishops to both developing the very successful Catholic sector and actively promoting reconciliation through schools and in society;
– the forthcoming launch of the
· The CCMS Welcome Pack for Ethnic Minorities (June 15th);
· The new Catholic Education website for Northern Ireland (September 21st). www.catholiceducation-ni.com

Healing Through Remembering
The Bishops support the recent invitation to the general public by the Healing Through Remembering (HTR) group for a Day of Private Reflection, to be held on 21 June next. HTR is a cross-community organisation focusing on ways of dealing with the past relating to the Northern Ireland conflict, with the aim of ensuring a peaceful and stable future for all.

The aim of the Day of Private Reflection is to help people make a commitment to a peaceful future, while also acknowledging the deep hurt and loss caused by the conflict. HTR has produced a range of information materials – leaflets, postcards, wallet-cards and posters – to help raise awareness of the Day and also to aid reflection on the Day itself. All items can be obtained free from the HTR offices at Alexander House, 17A Ormeau Avenue, Belfast.

Bishops’ Conference Pastoral Letter on the environment
The drafting of a Bishops’ Conference pastoral letter on the environment will take place over the coming months. The pastoral letter will be grounded in the teachings of scripture and will highlight our responsibility to respect all creation. It will specifically address climate change. As part of the development of this pastoral letter, Bishops will consult with scripture and scientific experts.

New logo for the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference
The Bishops unveiled their new conference logo at the General Meeting.

The design, in an energetic and modern way, incorporates the shepherd’s staff representing the many pastoral responsibilities of a bishop. The staff-head culminates in the cross of Saint Brigid, one of Ireland’s patron saints, signifying the heritage of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

The background colours are the colours of the liturgical year. The colour white represents Easter, Christmas and the other feasts of the year; red is the colour associated with Christ’s passion, the Holy Spirit, the apostles and the martyrs; green is the colour of Ordinary Time; and purple is linked with the preparation seasons of Advent and Lent, as well as the sacrament of reconciliation and prayer for the dead.

The colours green, purple and red are so arranged as to reflect the Patrician symbol of the Trinity, a key theme in the Celtic Christian heritage and in the documents of the Second Vatican Council.

Along with this new logo, the words Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference are accompanied by their translation in the Irish language: Comhdháil Easpag Caitliceach Éireann.








Further information:
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)