June 2008 General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference

11 Jun 2008

11 June 2008

June 2008 General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference

Please see below the press release which has been issued at the conclusion today of the June 2008 General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference. The topics addressed by the press release are as follows:
  • Prayers for the victims and survivors of the recent cyclone in Myanmar (Burma) and earthquake in China
  • Four Church leaders’ pilgrimage to the Holy Land
  • The Dóchas Centre and the Central Mental Hospital
  • Right to family reunification and the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2008
  • Human Trafficking
  • Permanent Diaconate
  • Update on recent Pastoral Letter “Vision 08: A Vision for Catholic Education in Ireland”
  • Year of Vocation initiatives for June, July and August 2008
  • 49th International Eucharistic Congress, 18 – 23 June 2008 in Quebec city
  • Day for Life, 5 October 2008
  • Appointment of a new Executive Secretary to the Irish Bishops’ Conference
Prayers for the victims and survivors of the cyclone in Myanmar (Burma) of 3 May and earthquake in China of 12 May
Bishops ask the faithful to remember in their prayers all those affected by the recent Cyclone Nargis, which struck Myanmar (Burma) on 3 May last, killing over 100,000 people and leaving over 2.5 million people threatened by disease and other risks. Damage was also done to church structures which now need to be rebuilt. For more information and to find out how you can help, please log on to www.trócaire.org.

Prayers are also asked for the victims and survivors of Western China’s Sichuan province and the surrounding areas which were recently devastated following a major earthquake on 12 May. UN figures report 70,000 people dead, more than 373,000 injured and nearly 18,000 missing as of June 3. More than 15 million survivors have been displaced, while about 4.8 million are homeless.

Visit to the Holy Land by the Four Main Church Leaders, 29 April – 2 May 2008
Bishops welcomed the report by Cardinal Seán Brady of the Holy Land visit, from 29 April to 2 May last, of the four main Irish church leaders: Cardinal Brady; Archbishop Alan Harper, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh; Dr John Finlay, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church; and, Reverend Roy Cooper, President of the Methodist Church.

The leaders’ visit focused mainly on Bethlehem and Jerusalem where they met local church leaders and representatives from the Palestinian Authority and Israeli Government, and also saw at first hand the relief and development work that is being undertaken by partners of Christian Aid and Trócaire.

The leaders also took part in a joint service of prayer with local Christians at the Shepherds’ Field near Bethlehem on the theme of ‘Keeping Watch: A service of Hope for Peace’. On the second day of the visit, Cardinal Brady accompanied the Latin Patriarch on a pastoral visit to Gaza.

Bishops ask that the faithful to continue to pray for peace in the Holy Land.

The Dóchas Centre and the Central Mental Hospital

Dóchas Centre
Bishops discussed the proposed relocation of the Dóchas Centre (prison for women) from its current site in Mountjoy in Dublin to an even bigger prison located on the grounds of the new prison complex at Thornton Hall in north county Dublin. Bishops noted that 2008 is the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Mountjoy Female Prison and that it is the largest female prison in the country. The Irish Bishops’ Conference calls on the Government to reconsider this proposed relocation of the Dóchas Centre to Thornton Hall.

The Dóchas Centre is acknowledged as operating a very progressive regime. Although part of the Mountjoy complex, the centre is very well designed and is located on the periphery of the site, has its own entrance and is essentially a separate prison. It was designed so that small numbers of women can live together in ‘houses’. Each house has approximately twelve single bedrooms and contains domestic-style cooking and laundry facilities. Even if there is an intention to retain the present design features of the Centre in Thornton Hall, the fact is that the new prison is planned to be almost twice as large as the existing one. This proposed increase in the capacity of the Dóchas Centre is one of the most disturbing features of the proposals in relation to Thornton Hall.

The profile of women prisoners indicates that instead of increasing the number of prison places for women, there is scope to reduce the use of imprisonment for female offenders and furthermore to reduce the extent to which those imprisoned are detained in secure closed prisons.

A major advantage of the present location of the Dóchas Centre is its access to a major public hospital and in-reach services. The Centre has a medical unit, which is staffed by qualified and dedicated people. While it might be possible to replicate this provision in the new complex, what cannot be replicated is the ready access which the Centre has to the outpatient and accident and emergency services of the Mater Hospital. This is a considerable resource for the Centre, especially in light of the fact that health care needs are much greater among women than among men in prison. People who work in the prison have indicated that the lives of women who have been attacked or who have attempted suicide or become seriously ill have been saved as a result of the Centre’s close proximity to a major public hospital.

Central Mental Hospital
Bishops believe that co-locating the Central Mental Hospital with Thornton Hall is not in the best interests of patients, further increases the stigma associated with mental illness and impedes the rehabilitation of patients. It is contrary to the Government’s stated policy on mental health. Bishops call on the Government to revisit this decision.

Right to Family Reunification and the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2008
Bishops welcome the consideration being given by Government to amendments to the draft Immigration, Residence and Protection (IRP) Bill 2008. As Pope Benedict XVI has affirmed, the Church is committed ‘not only in favour of the individual but also of his/her family’ (Message for 93rd World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 2007).

Recognising that family life is a natural right, and that a family does not cease to be a family because its members have crossed borders, Bishops believe that the migrants’ rights to family life should be clearly laid out in the IRP Bill. This would bring Ireland into line with other EU Member States, all of which already have national regulations regarding family reunification enshrined in primary legislation. Such clarity of policy, in accord with international best practice, would facilitate the implementation of just, transparent and consistent procedures and decision-making processes for families applying to reunite.

Immigrants are to be received as persons and helped, together with their families, to become a part of societal life. In this context, the “right of reuniting families should be respected and promoted.” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, #298)

Human Trafficking
Revisiting the theme of the press statement of 18 June 2006 which underlined concerns about the grave issue of human trafficking and urged that measures be put in place to safeguard the trafficked person as the innocent party and to strengthen criminal proceedings against traffickers, Bishops welcome the establishment by Government of the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU). Bishops wholeheartedly support the collaboration with the new Unit of Act to Prevent Trafficking, a faith-based group associated with Conference of Religious of Ireland and the Irish Missionary Union. Bishops believe that AHTU will serve to ensure that the necessary policies and procedures, in accord with international best practice, are put in place and appropriate and adequate services made available to trafficked persons.

Permanent Diaconate
Bishops appointed Rev Dr Gearóid Dullea (Diocese of Cork & Ross) as the new Director of Formation for the Permanent Diaconate. Monsignor Dermot Farrell (Diocese of Meath) is the National Director for the Permanent Diaconate.

In 2006 the Episcopal Conference published The Permanent Diaconate – National Directory and Norms for Ireland, which has been approved by the Holy See. This publication is available on www.catholiccommunications.ie

It is a matter for the Bishop of a particular diocese to establish the permanent diaconate in that diocese. Deacons are typically appointed to a parish near their home, and entrusted by their bishop with specific responsibilities. Some deacons may take on specialised ministries which are in keeping with their gifts and experience. Most deacons will exercise a part-time voluntary ministry, but expenses associated with formation and ministry will normally be paid by their diocese or parish.

Bishops urge all Catholics to participate actively in the life of the Church, and the diaconate should facilitate such participation. The introduction of the permanent diaconate provides an ideal opportunity in each diocese to look again at the meaning of all ministry (lay and ordained), and the relationship between the different gifts and different forms of service.

The diaconate is an ordained ministry which traces its origins back to Apostolic times. As part of a process of renewal of ministries in the Church, both lay and ordained, the Second Vatican Council decided to restore the diaconate as a distinct ministry. It is permanent in the sense that it is not simply a stage on the way to priesthood, and those who are ordained will serve as deacons. The principal responsibilities of the deacon is to exercise a ministry of charity; to proclaim the Gospel; assist the priest at the celebration at the Eucharist and at the celebrations of baptism and marriage; and, to preside at funerals.

The Permanent Diaconate – National Directory and Norms for Ireland outlines the historical origins of the diaconate and how it came to be restored. It explores the ministry of deacons in the modern Church, and outlines how they should be selected and formed for their ministry.

Pastoral Letter for Education, “Vision 08: A Vision for Catholic Education in Ireland”
On 12 May last, the Bishops’ Conference published a pastoral letter on education: Vision 08 – A Vision for Catholic Education in Ireland. The purpose of the launch of Vision 08 was to: – raise awareness about the valuable contribution and unique character of Catholic schools in Irish society; – invite the public to comment on the pastoral letter by email [email protected] or by post to: Pastoral Letter on Education, Irish Bishops’ Conference, Maynooth, Co Kildare: “on the best way of ensuring that Catholic schools can develop in the coming decades”; and, – announce the establishment, by the Bishops’ Conference, in cooperation with religious trustees, of a national “Catholic Education Service,” for the whole of Ireland.

The pastoral letter is available on the homepage of the Bishops’ website www.catholiccommunications.ie Bishops reiterate their invitation for responses to this pastoral letter from members of the public and other interested parties.

Year of Vocation initiatives for June, July and August 2008

RTÉ1 Television is to broadcast a special ‘Year of Vocation’ Mass from its studios in Donnybrook this Sunday, 15 June at 11:15am. Fr Patrick Rushe, National Director for Vocations, will preside at the Mass and will preach the homily. The music will be provided by the St John of God Choir with soloist Patricia Bourke D’Souza. During the Mass the choir will perform the specially commissioned Year of Vocation song You Will Be My Witnesses, and the congregation will be made up of all ages.

The June theme for the Year of Vocation is marriage as vocation. The days of Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 June have been chosen as the weekend during which parishes will be encouraged to celebrate marriage as vocation. For July, the Year of Vocation will be linking in with the Knock Youth Festival on the weekend of 26 and 27 July.

In August the Year of Vocation focus will be on pilgrimage. On Saturday 16 August, Bishop Colm O’Reilly, Bishop of Ardagh & Clonmacnois, is presiding at a special open-air Mass for the youth festival organised by Youth 2000. This Mass will be in the vicinity of Cluain Chairáin, a prayer centre close to the ancient monastic ruins of Clonmacnois. Also as part of the Year of Vocation there will be a pilgrimage from Shannonbridge to Clonmacnois on Sunday 24 August.

In September the focus will be on vocations to the priesthood. For more details on all of the above: www.yourvocation.ie

49th International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec, 15 – 22 June 2008
Cardinal Seán Brady and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin will lead a delegation of six representatives from Ireland to the Forty-ninth International Eucharistic Congress, which takes place in Quebec city between 15 – 22 June.

Day for Life, 5 October 2008
The Day for Life for 2008 will be celebrated on 5 October next. The theme for the Day for Life 2008 is ‘The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; He rescues those who are crushed in spirit’ (Psalm 34, 18). The Day will focus on mental illness. This Day for Life celebrates a common theme each year and the pastoral letter is jointly drafted by the Episcopal Conferences of England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland. There is a dedicated website now in place for the annual celebration of the Day for Life at www.dayforlife.org

Appointment of new Executive Secretary to the Irish Bishops’ Conference
Fr Eamon Martin (Diocese of Derry) has been appointed by the Bishops to succeed Fr Aidan O’Boyle as Executive Secretary to the Irish Episcopal Conference. Fr O’Boyle served for 11 years as Executive Secretary to the Episcopal Conference, which is based in Maynooth, and he now returns to his native Diocese of Killala. On behalf of the Bishops, Cardinal Brady paid tribute to Fr O’Boyle’s hard work and administrative efficiency over this period.

Fr Eamon Martin was educated at St Patrick’s College Maynooth, Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Cambridge. Ordained in 1987, Fr Martin ministered in St Eugene’s Cathedral before taking up a teaching post in Mathematics and Religious Education at St Columb’s College, Derry. He has been President of St Columb’s College since May 2000 and under his leadership the College has recently achieved specialist school status in Mathematics and Computing, a National Training Award (UK) for its commitment to staff development, and recognition as an exemplar of Best Practice in the Public Sector (NI) 2008.


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