6th December 2007
December General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference
The December General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference took place in Maynooth this week. The following press release highlights issues addressed by the Bishops during their meeting:
- Bishops’ Conference congratulates Cardinal Seán Brady
- Advent and the Sacrament of Reconciliation (or Penance)
- New Encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI: Spe Salvi
- Pope Benedict’s general prayer intention for December
- Catholic Education
- Drug use in Ireland
- The Irish Prison Chaplains Annual Report 2006/2007
- Veritas radio advertisement and Christmas Cards with a Christian theme
- Accord, the Catholic Marriage Care Service
- Trócaire’s Global Gift Campaign
Bishops’ Conference congratulates Cardinal Seán Brady
The Bishops’ Conference collectively congratulated Cardinal Seán Brady on his creation as a cardinal, by Pope Benedict XVI, at the Consistory in Rome on 24 and 25 November last. Bishops also extended their good wishes to the newly ordained Bishop of Ossory, Bishop Seámus Freeman; to Bishop-elect Brendan Kelly on his appointment, by Pope Benedict on 20 November last, as the next Bishop of Achrony; and, to Monsignor Paul Tighe of the Archdiocese of Dublin on his appointment, by the Pope, as Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
Advent and the Sacrament of Reconciliation
In this season of Advent, the call to renewal of our Christian life is a central part of our preparation for Christmas. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation (or Penance), we receive the gift of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Its celebration should be an integral part of our preparation for the Feast of the birth of Our Saviour. Bishops strongly encourage the faithful, over the next few weeks, to make time to avail of this gift of God’s love for them which we all receive in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
New Encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI: Spe Salvi
Bishops welcomed the publication of the new Encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, which was presented in the Holy See Press Office on 30 November last.
Bishops noted that the theme of Pope Benedict’s first encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love) was love, while the theme of this encyclical Spe Salvi (Saved by Hope) is hope, which is closely related to faith. These are the three virtues by which we relate to God. Spe Salvi asks the faithful to reflect on the following:
- God has shown his face to us in Christ. Can our encounter with God change our lives so that we know we are redeemed through hope?
- The encyclical tells us that we are definitively loved and whatever happens to us in life, we are awaited by God’s love.
- We hope for eternal life, but eternity is not an unending succession of days in the calendar, rather it is something more like the supreme moment of satisfaction in which totality embraces us and we embrace totality. We can only attempt to grasp the idea that such a moment is life in its full sense.
- Christian hope is not individualistic; it has to do with the building up of the common good in this world while at the same time moving towards the fullness of the hope by which we are saved. We must be concerned not just about our own salvation but ask what we can do in order that others may also be saved.
- Placing our trust in anything other than God will in the end fail to satisfy the human heart and will be destructive of true hope.
- When we try to spare ourselves the effort and pain of pursuing truth, love, and goodness, we drift into a life of emptiness, in which there may be almost no pain, but a dark sensation that life is meaningless. We are healed, not by trying to evade all suffering, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered for us with infinite love.
- Science can contribute greatly to making the world and mankind more human. Yet it can also destroy mankind and the world unless it is steered by forces that lie outside it. On the other hand, we must also acknowledge that modern Christianity, faced with the successes of science in progressively structuring the world, has to a large extent restricted its attention to the individual and his salvation. This can lead to a failure to understand the unlimited horizon of Christian hope.
Pope Benedict’s general prayer intention for December
Bishops asked the faithful to remember in their own prayers Pope Benedict’s general prayer intention for December, which is: “That human society may be solicitous in the care of all those stricken with AIDS, especially children and women, and that the Church may make them feel the Lord’s love.”
Bishops also highlighted the significance of Pope Benedict’s mission intention for December, which is: “That the incarnation of the Son of God, which the Church celebrates solemnly at Christmas, may help the peoples of the Asiatic Continent to recognise God’s Envoy, the only Savior of the world, in Jesus.”
Bishops congratulated the Irish Episcopal Commission for Emigrants on the success of its recent three-day conference: “From Pastoral Care to Public Policy – Journeying with the Migrant” (conference papers are available as links to press release number 126/2007 in the press release section of www.catholicbishops.ie).
Bishops also paid tribute to teachers and staff in Catholic schools throughout the country, for their professionalism and dedication, which is of life-long benefit to pupils of all faith denominations and nationalities in our schools.
Drug use in Ireland
Bishops discussed their concern in relation to the ever increasing use of cocaine throughout every village and town of our country. Bishops asked the faithful to join with them in prayer and remembrance of those who have suffered, and for their families, due to the use of drugs in our communities. Bishops also asked for prayers in support of those agencies and volunteers who reach out to those who have been damaged by the use of drugs, including their families and friends.
There is no such thing as a 100% safe use of any illegal drug, and this is also true for the euphemistically termed “social / recreational” use of cocaine or other stimulants. There are always high risks of overdose due to contamination, lack of tolerance to purity or the mixing with other drugs, especially alcohol. Bishops encouraged young people and youth leaders within our communities to promote alternative lifestyle choices such as sports, voluntary work and other hobbies. Bishops asked that those who may be faced with the option of using drugs over the Christmas period consider the choices they make; the risks involved; the real harm caused to self and families; and, to make a choice to say ‘No’.
Let us all play our part in making this Christmas be a joyful, peaceful and prayerful time without the pain and sadness of drug and alcohol related deaths.
The Irish Prison Chaplains Annual Report 2006/2007
The Irish Prison Chaplains Annual Report 2006/2007 was submitted to the Minister for Justice, Equality, and Law Reform, Mr Brian Lenihan, TD, last week, and was forwarded to the Bishops’ Conference by Sr Imelda Wickham, National Co-ordinator of Prison Chaplains in the Republic of Ireland. This Annual Report is tabled for discussion at the next meeting of the Department of Pastoral Care of the Irish Bishops’ Conference.
Bishops discussed the significance of the focus, in the report, on the Restorative Method of Justice i.e. on the best use of prisoner time. Safe custody, while very important, is not the only consideration to achieve rehabilitation. Bishops endorsed the recommendation that the restorative method of justice be explored as an alternative to imprisonment.
Veritas radio advertisement and Christmas cards with a Christian theme
(i) Veritas radio advertisement
Veritas, an agency of the Bishops’ Conference, has for the first time commissioned a radio advertisement which is currently running on the public service national radio station RTÉ1. The advertisement was specifically broadcast to promote Veritas retail outlets and the gifts it has for sale in the run up to Christmas.
Bishops expressed concern and disappointment that that the word ‘crib’ had to be omitted from the script of the advertisement before the station would broadcast it. The removal of the word ‘crib’ from the advertisement is both an affront to Christians and belies common sense in the context of Irish society and culture.
Whether it is in the editing of a Veritas advertisement, or a crèche policy to no longer hold the Christmas Nativity play; or, by discontinuing the placement of a crib in a hospital foyer, we are asking Christians to reflect on – and protect – what is the true spirit of Advent and Christmas, namely: a time to reflect on our life journey and to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.
Final copy of Veritas Christmas 2007 radio advertisement:
“This Christmas, make your seasons greetings extra special with a gift from Veritas.
We’ve got a fabulous selection of books, cards, music, Christmas art, quality Irish hand made crafts and lots of festive items.
Remember, if you want something different this Christmas there’s only one name and that’s Veritas.
You’ll find Veritas at Abbey Street and Blanchardstown Centre Dublin, Cork, Derry, Ennis, Letterkenny, Monaghan and Sligo.
Veritas- for books and gifts with a difference. Visit Veritas.ie.”
Bishops encourage the faithful to visit Veritas shops and to consider purchasing cribs, books, Christmas cards and other spiritual and religious gifts.
(ii) Christmas Cards with a Christian theme
Bishops highlighted the importance of choosing Christmas cards with an explicitly Christian theme. While such cards are always available in Veritas, parish and other religious shops, they are becoming more difficult to find in other retail outlets.
Accord, the Catholic marriage care service
The Bishops reviewed the work of Accord, the Catholic marriage care service of the Bishops’ Conference, whose mission is to empower people, foster relationships and care for couples facing the challenge of Christian marriage.
Bishops acknowledged the very generous work of marriage counsellors, marriage preparation facilitators and all other Accord personnel. In 2006 counsellors delivered 30,000 hours of counselling while the facilitators delivered nearly 20,000 hours of marriage preparation work. They also acknowledged the financial support to Accord of the Family Support Agency within the Department of Social and Family Affairs.
Based on the feedback received from the 57 Accord centres around the country, Bishops expressed their concern in relation to the many pressures facing young couples in contemporary society. Amongst these are pressures arising from the:
– reduction of available quality time that families have to spend together;
– care of children especially when both parents have to work outside the home;
– financial commitments such as the burden of large mortgages;
– long working hours and/or considerable time spent commuting to work.
Bishops discussed the need to assist couples toward a deeper understanding of the wonder, the mystery and the sacredness of marriage and family. They have established a committee to study how best couples can be assisted in this regard.
Trócaire’s Global Gift Campaign
Trócaire, the Bishops’ overseas development agency, has launched its Global Gift Christmas campaign.
Bishops ask that people consider a Trócaire Global Gift as part of their gift purchasing this Christmas. The Trócaire Global Gift campaign provides a way to support people and communities in other parts of the world in need of our assistance at this time of year. So much of our money is spent on gifts which may not be needed or wanted and the Trócaire campaign is both timely and thought provoking. It offers nine practical gifts, whose purchase will make a tangible difference to peoples’ lives in the developing world.
An example of one of the nine Trócaire Global Gifts on offer is the ‘Gift of mother and baby care in Somalia’. Funds raised from the purchase of this gift will support the maintenance of a maternity unit for pregnant woman in a hospital in Somalia. Somalia has one of the highest rates in the world of maternal death and infant mortality. Another Trócaire Global Gift is the gift of water. Funds raised from the purchase of this gift will support irrigation projects to help food production and the clean water for human use in many different countries.
Each Global Gift comes with a beautifully illustrated card and gift certificate. To find out more visit www.trocaire.org or call 1850 408 408.
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Kathy Tynan Communications Officer (086 817 5674)