September 2008 General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference

24 Sep 2008

24 September 2008

Autumn General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference concludes in Maynooth

The Autumn 2008 General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, which took place in Maynooth this week, concluded last night.  Bishops discussed the following:

  • September general prayer intention of Pope Benedict XVI
  • Civil Partnership Bill 2008
  • Recent downturn in the economy
  • Northern Ireland
  • Alternative locations to prison
  • Broadcasting Bill 2008 restrictions on religious advertising
  • Year of Vocation – Priesthood Sunday on 28 September 2008
  • (i) United Nations Annual General Assembly (ii) Irish peacekeeping troops
  • Synod of Bishops in Rome – 5 to 26 October 2008
  • Day for Life on 5 October 2008
  • (i) National Day of Prayer for Children on 10 October (ii) Mission Sunday on 19 October
  • Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in 2012
  • New website for the Irish Bishops’ Conference
  • New appointments: (i) General Secretary of the Catholic Primary School Managers Association (ii) National Director for ACCORD

September general prayer intention of Pope Benedict XVI
Bishops ask the faithful to remember in their prayers the September general prayer intention of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, which is: “That those who, because of wars or oppressive regimes, are forced to leave their homes and country [and that they] may be supported by Christians in the defence and protection of their rights.”

Pope Benedict’s mission intention for September is: “That, faithful to the Sacrament of matrimony, every Christian family may cultivate the values of love and communion in order to be a small evangelising community, sensitive and open to the material and spiritual needs of its brothers.”

Civil Partnership Bill 2008
Bishops discussed the Civil Partnership Bill 2008, which was published in June by the Department of Justice, and in particular the Constitutional obligation on the Government to guard the institution of marriage with special care (Art. 41.3.1).  Bishops highlighted the benefits which derive from marriage between a man and woman as the fundamental unit of society.

Bishops restated that marriage exists so that spouses may grow in mutual love and by generosity of their love, bring children into the world and serve life fully.  As a faithful, exclusive and lifelong union between one man and one woman, marriage is both a relationship of persons and the fundamental unit upon which society is built.  

Our recognition of this unique status is further deepened by our Christian understanding that love of husband and wife mirrors Christ’s abiding love for the Church.  

The Irish Constitution rightly acknowledges the unique status of marriage and why it is appropriate for Government to support that status with special measures, including special measures in taxation and social welfare.

God, who is love, is the author of marriage. This authorship includes the natural complementarity of man and woman through which the union of spouses is deepened and the gift of new life is made possible.  

Indicating that a further and more detailed statement on the Civil Partnership Bill would follow at a later date, Bishops revisited their submission to the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Family in February 2005, which concluded:

“This special status of marriage does not prevent just and appropriate measures being taken in relation to the diversity of other forms of dependent relationship which exist in society.  It may, in certain circumstances, be in the public interest to provide legal protection to the social, fiscal and inheritance entitlements of persons who support caring relationships which generate dependency, provided always that these relationships are recognised as being qualitatively different from marriage and that their acceptance does not dilute the uniqueness of marriage. However, it would seem discriminatory to confine this protection to those in sexual relationships and thereby exclude from protection the interests of siblings and other non-sexually involved cohabitees. Moreover, the creation of a category of ‘marriage like’ relationships which would enjoy special  rights and protections would seem to contradict in spirit, if not in law, the pledge in Article 41.3.1 to guard with special care the institution of marriage.  In the case of those who would in any event be free to marry, any scheme which confers on them many of the advantages of legal marriage, might be judged to be an incentive not to marry and to have devalued the institution of marriage.”

Recent downturn in the economy
It is particularly worrying at this time that, as the economy across the island declines, inflation is rising in key basic areas and that this price inflation is being felt most by those on low wages or on State income support.  Of particular concern is the rising cost of food and fuel.

Hope is not a commodity which can be bought or sold.  It is important that we hope – and act – so that the most vulnerable are protected in these more challenging times.  It is not just the role of Government, but of families, communities and individuals to care, connect and support one another and in particular with those who are lonely, isolated and who are struggling to participate fully in society.

Northern Ireland
Bishops noted with concern that the Northern Ireland Executive has not met since June.  They expressed the hope that the respectful listening and dialogue, which had brought about the stability and growth of recent years, would urgently continue in an effort to resolve the current difficulties.  

Noting the challenges presented, for many people, by the current economic climate, Bishops emphasised the need for the Assembly and Executive to demonstrate its potential to deliver a more just and prosperous society for the whole community.     

Bishops ask for prayers to support and guide those in public life.

Alternative locations to prison
Bishops expressed support for the regular calls by the prison chaplains for alternative locations to prison and penal detention centres for the custody of asylum seekers, refugees, bona fide immigrants and visitors pending the establishment of the legitimacy of their entry to Ireland.

Recent cases, highlighted by media reports, emphasise yet again the urgent need for alternative holding locations and reform of procedures that afford appropriate privacy and dignity to those detained by the immigration service.

Broadcasting Bill 2008 restrictions on religious advertising
Bishops call on the Oireachtas to consider amending the restrictions on religious advertising as contained in the relevant sections of Section 41 of the Broadcasting Bill 2008.  Bishops ask that the broadcasting of religious advertisements be permitted as long as the advertisement in question is not contrary to the common good.

Year of Vocation – Priesthood Sunday on 28 September 2008
The purpose of the Church’s Year of Vocation is to raise awareness of the common vocation that we all share through baptism, as expressed through witness, love and service.  The Year of Vocation, from 13 April 2008 to 3 May 2009, addresses a different theme each month.  Please see

As part of this special Year, Sunday 28 September next has been designated “Priesthood Sunday” in Ireland.  It is an opportunity to highlight, and to promote in particular, the vocation to priesthood.  It is a day to reflect upon and to celebrate the central role of the priesthood in the life of the Church.

Cardinal Seán Brady will celebrate Mass in Ballapousta, Co Louth, to mark Priesthood Sunday and to celebrate the founder of St Joseph’s Young Priest’s Society, Olivia Mary Taaffe.

Bishops encourage the lay faithful to develop their own special way of marking this day and to pay tribute to the priests of their parish both at Mass and at other community events, such as social celebrations and school activities.  Priesthood Sunday is designed to be an event led by the laity.

(i) United Nations Annual General Assembly (ii) Irish peacekeeping troops
A major theme of the United Nations Annual General Assembly which opens today in New York, and at which An Taoiseach Brian Cowen will attend, is the Millennium Development Goals.

While mindful of the less confident economic global environment and despite a recent reduction of €45m in Ireland’s development aid budget, Bishops welcome the statement last June by the Minister for Finance, Mr Brian Lenihan, that Ireland is still committed to reaching its stated target of 0.7% of GNP by 2012 and would remain on course to achieve this.

However, as extraordinary levels of poverty still prevail throughout the developing world, Bishops call on Government not to make any further cuts in the aid budget as this would have very serious consequences for those who have least resources to cope.  

Bishops expressed their support and appreciation for the role of Irish peacekeeping troops whose latest mission involves their deployment to Chad.  Bishops paid tribute to their humanitarian activities and asked that the faithful pray for the safe return of the soldiers and for their families.

Synod of Bishops in Rome – 5 to 26 October 2008
The President and Vice-President of the Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin will attend as delegates at the 12th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome next month.  The Synod theme is: “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church” and it takes place from 5 – 26 October.

The primary focus of the Synod will be how the word of God may be better received as a life-giving, life-transforming gift for all God’s people. Thematically the 12th Synod of Bishops mirrors the 11th Synod in 2005 which gathered under the theme: “The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church”.  There is a deep complementarity between both themes which has its roots in the Church’s relationship between Holy Scriptures and the Eucharist.   

A Synod is an assembly of bishops who gather to discuss Church matters, pool information and experiences in the common pursuit of pastoral solutions which have universal validity and application.  Such meetings can take place at regional, national or universal level.  The Synod of Bishops by its counsel assists the Pope in his government of the universal Church. The late Pope John Paul II referred to the Synod of Bishops as “a particularly fruitful expression and instrument of the collegiality of bishops”.  The concept is one that stems from the early Church and has developed down through the centuries.

Irish Bishops ask the faithful to pray that the Synod will be attentive to the Holy Spirit and that its work will lead all to a greater appreciation of the presence of Jesus Christ in our midst and for His love of us as revealed by the Word of God.

Day for Life on 5 October 2008 – Promoting Mental Health
The “Day for Life” is the day in the Church’s year dedicated to celebrating the sacredness of life and this year it will focus on the theme of mental health.  Its objective is to help raise awareness of the needs of those affected by mental ill-health, their friends, their family and their carers, and the support that the parish community and professional services can bring.

As in previous years, the Bishops of Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales have jointly written a pastoral letter, and the Day for Life for 2008 is devoted to promoting mental health.  Day for Life will be celebrated in Ireland on 5 October.  

In this pastoral letter Bishops remind all of us of our duty with regard to mental health and reaffirm that what is true of citizens is ever truer of Christians.  Bishops offer their prayerful support to those who are suffering from ill health and to those who are caring for them.  The duty to support and promote the common good is a fundamental obligation on everyone in society.  On Day for Life 2008, we remember that an important aspect of this duty, which is shared by every citizen, is the duty to promote the mental health of every member of our society and, in particular, that of our local communities.  Please see for further information and for helpful resources.

(i) National Day of Prayer for Children on 10 October (ii) Mission Sunday on 19 October
The Society of Missionary Children, which is a Pontifical and Episcopal Society, is 165 years old and has been active in Ireland for the last 155 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.

Following on from its success last year, the second National Day of Prayer for Children will take place on Friday 10 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 encourage us all to work for a world which will give all children the hope of a worthy future.  For further details please see

October is the month universally dedicated to the celebration of “Mission”.  Each year the Church in Ireland chooses a particular theme with which to mark mission month and this year the theme is: “Go and Tell – Missionaries with Messages” echoing the request that Jesus gave to His Apostles – the first missionaries – to proclaim the Good News to the whole world.

RTÉ television will broadcast Mass, celebrated by Bishop Colm O’Reilly, Bishop of Ardagh & Clonmacnois, from St Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, at 11:15am on Mission Sunday, 19 October next.  This Mass will be dedicated to the years of service given by priests, religious and lay missionaries in Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Bishops encourage the lay faithful to contribute generously to the Mission Sunday collection on 19 October which will take place in all parishes across the country.  

Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in 2012
Bishops discussed the success of the celebration of the Eucharistic Congress in Quebec in June of this year and the associated planning requirements for Ireland, and for Dublin in particular, in advance of hosting this special event in the capital in 2012.  

New website for the Irish Bishops’ Conference
This meeting of the Bishops’ Conference saw the official launch, by Cardinal Brady, of the new website for the Conference:  

The new website will be of particular interest to members of the clergy, religious, laity, teachers, policy makers, journalists and anyone wishing to find out more about the activities of the Catholic Church at home and throughout the world.

Daily Mass Readings will be available on the new site, in Irish and English, while also contains the first online map of the dioceses of Ireland, and will offer users the option to subscribe to news releases issued by the Bishops’ Conference via an RSS feed.  The site also contains a bank of audio and videos and will have regular feature articles focused on the mission and work of the Church in Ireland.  

New appointments: (i) Catholic Primary Schools Management Association (ii) ACCORD
Bishops announced the appointment of Ms Eileen Flynn as the new General Secretary of the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association (CPSMA).  The CPSMA’s role is to provide management support for primary schools in the State under the patronage of the bishops.  It has now relocated its offices from Veritas Head Office in Dublin to New House, St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.

Ms Flynn succeeds Monsignor Dan O’Connor who served for the past six years as CPSMA General Secretary.  Whilst continuing as a member of the Bishops’ Commission on Education, from October, Mgr O’Connor takes up his new appointment as Parish Priest of Dun Laoghaire and Glasthule in the Archdiocese of Dublin.  

Bishops also announced the appointment of Ms Ruth Barror as the new National Director of ACCORD, the Catholic marriage care service.  Ms Barror replaces Mr Shay Ellis who is retiring after serving in that post for the last six years.

On behalf of the Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Brady thanked Mgr O’Connor and Mr Ellis and paid tribute to their hard work and administrative efficiency.


Further information:

Martin Long, Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm, Communications Officer (087 233 7797)