October 2007 General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference in Maynooth

03 Oct 2007


3rd October 2007

October General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference in Maynooth

The October General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference concluded today in Maynooth. The following press release highlights issues addressed by the Bishops during their meeting:

  • Day for Life is celebrated on 7 October 2007 on the theme: “Blessed is the fruit of your womb”
  • National Conference of Priests of Ireland
  • Parish Pastoral Councils – A Framework for Developing Diocesan Norms and Parish Guidelines
  • New requirements for the Civil Registration of Marriages
  • Undocumented Migrants in Ireland
  • Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum
  • 50th anniversary of Fidei Donum – Mission Sunday 21 October 2007
  • National Day of Prayer for Children – 12 October 2007
  • Third European Ecumenical Assembly
  • Myanmar (Burma)
  • New editor for Intercom


Day for Life 2007
The theme of “Day for Life” 2007, celebrated as a common theme by the Bishops’ Conferences of Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales, is: “Blessed is the fruit of your womb”. It will be celebrated in parishes in Ireland on Sunday next, 7 October 2007.

2007 is a year for anniversaries for those who promote what Pope John Paul II called “a culture of life and a civilisation of love.” In England and Wales the Catholic Bishops have reflected on the effect which the introduction of legalised abortion has had on society during the past 40 years. In Scotland, the Scottish bishops have marked the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative and, in Ireland, we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the foundation of CURA by the Irish Bishops. These anniversaries afford us an opportunity, therefore, to focus our thoughts on the sacredness of human life.

Since CURA was founded 30 years ago, major changes have taken place in society. And yet, despite all these changes, and the apparently more understanding culture in which we live, some women still experience pregnancy as a crisis in their lives and still feel the need to talk to someone in an environment which is caring, secure and non-judgmental. The demand for post-abortion counselling nowadays by both men and women also serves as a reminder of the long term effects of abortion not only on the mother but, quite often, on the father as well.

CURA makes a unique contribution to crisis pregnancy counselling today because it has an equal care for the woman who experiences her pregnancy as a crisis and for her unborn child who, at that particular moment, has brought this element of alarm into her life. It is that equal concern for the welfare of both the mother and her unborn child that distinguishes the particular contribution which CURA makes to crisis pregnancy counselling and which is of such importance for the common good of our society.

There is a dedicated website now in place for the annual celebration of the Day for Life and its address is www.dayforlife.org. The Day for Life pastoral letter for 2007 is in the English, Irish and Polish languages on a special web feature on the Irish bishops’ website: www.catholicbishops.ie.

In the context of this discussion on the sacredness and protection of all human life, the Bishops noted the recent decision by Amnesty International to support access to abortion “in limited circumstances”. While sensitive to the personal distress experienced by women in crisis pregnancy situations, the bishops criticised this recent decision by Amnesty International for its failure to recognise life as the most fundamental of human rights. The Bishops expressed their support to the membership of Amnesty International Irish Section for not favouring this change in policy and for its continuing commitment not to campaign for abortion in any context.

National Conference of Priests of Ireland

Concern was expressed at the current absence of a national representative body for priests, as a result of the dissolution the National Conference of Priests of Ireland (NCPI), which was announced on 19 September last. The NCPI played an important role as a forum to support the priests of Ireland, and to discuss and represent their views. Since it was founded over thirty years ago, it has promoted and organised many useful initiatives for priests – diocesan, religious and missionary – including residential renewal programmes and annual conferences.

It was decided that the President of the Bishops’ Conference would invite the chairman of each Diocesan Council of Priests, from across the country, to a meeting.

Parish Pastoral Councils

The Bishops’ Commission for Pastoral Renewal and Adult Faith Development today published Parish Pastoral Councils: A framework for Developing Diocesan Norms and Parish Guidelines, a copy of which is available on www.renewal.ie.

The Parish Pastoral Council is a leadership group through which priests and lay people work together as partners in furthering the mission of Christ in their own place. It does this through building up a vibrant Christian community that is rooted in baptism and marked by its faith, worship and service.

Parish Pastoral Councils are a visible expression of the kind of Church we are called to be today. With the publication of this framework document, the Bishops endorse the development of Parish Pastoral Councils, work which is already in progress in many dioceses. That God is still active in people’s hearts is evidenced by the generosity of men and women who participate in the setting up, supporting and participation in their Parish Pastoral Council.

New requirements for the Civil Registration of Marriages

The Civil Registration Act 2004 deals in part with the registration of marriages. The purpose of this Act is to have a single procedure for the notification and registration of marriages which would modernise and simplify the existing legislation. From 5 November 2007 there will be one unified manner for the civil registration of all marriages.

While there are no changes to the church requirements for couples getting married, some developments are taking place affecting the civil registration of marriage. These new requirements become law in 5 November next. The three most important changes are:

  • the couple take greater responsibility for the civil registration of their marriage;
  • the couple make a declaration of no civil impediment;
  • priests (or deacons), in order to officiate a marriage, must be on the ‘List of Solemnisers’ submitted by each local Bishop to the Registrar-General.

The Irish Bishops’ Conference has published Getting Married in Church: New Requirements for Civil Registration as guidelines to be read in conjunction with the booklet issued by the General Register Office Marriage Provisions of the Civil Registration Act, 2004: Notes for Religious Solemnisers, see www.groireland.ie. The guidelines Getting Married in Church: New Requirements for Civil Registration are published by Veritas and are available in its book shops.

Undocumented Migrants in Ireland

The Bishops express their concern for the growing undocumented migrant population in Ireland. Migrants who come to Ireland in good faith with the promise of work permits which subsequently do not materialise, or who find themselves exploited by their sponsors, are in need of protection. Failure to address this issue causes hardship for the immigrant and has a corrosive effect on Irish society. This is part of a worldwide phenomenon which is causing hardship and suffering to many people.

As we strive to build a civil society that serves the common good, Bishops ask that this issue be addressed by policymakers as a matter of urgency.

Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum

The Bishops welcome the publication by the Vatican on 7 July last of the Apostolic Letter of Pope Benedict XVI, Summorum Pontificum, concerning the celebration of the Eucharist according to the 1962 missal of Blessed John XXIII. The Bishops discussed the pastoral implications of Summorum Pontificum for their dioceses.

50th anniversary of Fidei Donum – Diocesan priests on temporary missions overseas Theme for Mission Sunday, 21 October 2007, “Reflect God’s Love”

50 years ago Pope Pius XII issued the encyclical letter Fidei Donum in which he invited the dioceses of the European churches to send priests to the newly emerging dioceses in Africa. These diocesan priests voluntarily worked for a temporary period alongside the traditional missionary Orders and Societies, for example, the Holy Ghost Congregation, St Patrick’s Missionary Society, and the Society of St Columban.

In the last 50 years the dioceses of Ireland provided over 268 priests to minister mainly in Africa, and this was extended also to South America. For example, the Diocese of Cork and Ross, under the initiative of the late bishop, Bishop Cornelius Lucey, established a mission in Peru, and in the last 50 years over 62 diocesan priests from Cork have ministered in Peru.

The Bishops wish to acknowledge the generosity and sacrifice of these pioneers who not only enriched the overseas dioceses through their ministry, but on their return to Ireland, brought many pastoral initiatives and values to their home church. The Church in Ireland is now receiving priests from the very dioceses where Fidei Donum priests once ministered.

Pope Benedict’s message for Mission Sunday, on 21 October next, pays tribute to the Fidei Donum missionaries and requests that the churches of the old tradition ought not “slacken in their missionary endeavour”.

National Day of Prayer for Children – 12 October 2007

The Society of Missionary Children, which is a Pontifical and Episcopal Society, is 164 years old and has been active in Ireland for the last 154 years. The motto for the Society is: “Children helping Children”, and in effect children are encouraged to pray for, and share with, children growing up in mission countries.

The National Day of Prayer will take place on Friday 12 October next and it aims to introduce prayer for mission work into children’s lives. Bishops encourage all parents, teachers and children to join together in prayer so that the Day of Prayer will be a wonderful occasion to spur us all on to work for a world which will give all children the hope of a worthy future.

Third European Ecumenical Assembly

A delegation of 15 Catholic lay and clerical representatives from Ireland, led by the Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor and Chair of the Bishops’ Commission for Ecumenism, Bishop Anthony Farquhar, traveled to Sibiu, Romania, between the 4 – 9 September 2007 to attend the Third European Ecumenical Assembly.

The Third Ecumenical Assembly challenged the churches not to be satisfied with the state of our churches, pretending it is “business as usual”. Difficulties exist. These were expressed in a spirit of frank and clarifying exchange during the Assembly. Nevertheless, Cardinal Kasper reminded the Assembly participants of the urgency of the ecumenical commitment: “we should also never let ourselves be talked out of it by those for whom ecumenism is a mess. For us, ecumenism is a task given us by Jesus Christ, who prayed “that all might be one” (Jn 17,21); it is set in motion by the Holy Spirit (Unitatis Redintegratio 1; 4) and answers a need of our time. We have stretched out our hands to each other and do not want to let them go again.”

The Sibiu Assembly provided a ‘wake-up’ call to all Christians in Europe to realise that “Europe needs to stand by herself, her history and the values that once made her great and are the only thing that can give her a new future.” That is the task we share.

Among the recommendations listed in the Final Message are examples of activities that could help unite Christians of the churches on this island: prayer for each other and for unity, ecumenical pilgrimages, theological formation and study in common, social and diaconal initiatives, cultural projects, supporting society life based on Christian values and issues relating to migration, ecological justice and debt cancellation. The full set of assembly recommendations is available on www.ccee.ch.

Myanmar (Burma)

The Bishops support the call by the Myanmar Episcopal Conference for a national prayer campaign in the light of the recent pro-democracy protests in the country. Bishops encourage that the prayers for the faithful would include a petition for a cessation of violence in Myanmar and that justice would prevail.

New editor for Intercom

Mr Francis Cousins has been appointed as the new editor of Intercom, the liturgical resource for people in ministry. Francis formerly worked as a journalist with the Down Democrat newspaper and also as an English language trainer with the business language company “Inlingua Osnabrueck”, which is based in Germany. Francis holds a degree in civil law, with French, from Queen’s University. Francis also studied at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, where he received a Bachelor of Divinity and a Masters in Theology. Intercom is published by Veritas ten times per year.


Further information:
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Kathy Tynan Communications Officer (086 817 5674)