Spring 2009 General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference

11 Mar 2009

11 March 2009

Spring 2009 General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference

The Spring General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference concludes today in Maynooth. Bishop Christopher Jones, Bishop of Elphin, Bishop John McAreavey, Bishop of Dromore, Bishop Raymond Field, Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin and clinical social worker Dr Monica Applewhite addressed a press conference on the following:
  • Pope Benedict and Bishops’ statements on Northern Ireland
  • Safeguarding Children
  • Preparation for Easter
  • Trócaire’s 2009 Lenten Campaign
  • The Solemnity of Saint Patrick
  • ACCORD – Catholic Marriage Care Service
  • Support for the Holy Land
  • Charities Act 2009
  • National Famine Memorial Day
  • Keeping Sunday sacred
  • Day for Life 2009
  • Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in 2012
  • Year of Vocation – 13 April 2008 to 3 May 2009
  • Report on the 6th World Meeting of Families held in Mexico in January
Pope Benedict and Bishops’ statements on Northern Ireland

Bishops, meeting under the shadow of the tragic events of recent days in Northern Ireland, prayed for all those affected and discussed the worsening situation. Bishops welcomed the statement today from His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, delivered at his weekly General Audience in Rome regarding the recent killings in Northern Ireland:
“It was with deep sorrow that I learned of the murders of two young British soldiers and a policeman in Northern Ireland. As I assure the families of the victims and the injured of my spiritual closeness, I condemn in the strongest terms these abominable acts of terrorism which, apart from desecrating human life, seriously endanger the ongoing peace process in Northern Ireland and risk destroying the great hopes generated by this process in the region and throughout the world. I ask the Lord that no one will again give in to the horrendous temptation of violence and that all will increase their efforts to continue building – through the patient effort of dialogue – a peaceful, just and reconciled society.”
Bishops condemned the murderous attacks carried out at Massareene barracks in Antrim on 7 March and the murder of a policeman in Craigavon on 9 March. They welcomed the spontaneous prayerful expressions of unity across the community which followed these attacks. Bishops prayers and thoughts would continue to be with the families of those who were so brutally murdered and those injured. Bishops said:

“These killings are a direct and heinous attack on the sanctity of human life and on efforts to build an agreed political way forward in Northern Ireland.

“The people of Ireland have overwhelmingly rejected the use of violence as a means of achieving political ends. Those who propose any other way wreck our future and destroy hope. We call on all citizens to redouble their efforts to build a peaceful society which pursues justice and reconciliation through the patient dialogue of the political process.

“We also appeal to everyone who has information, which might help to bring to justice those involved in carrying out these attacks, to give that information to the PSNI.

Safeguarding Children

Mr Ian Elliott, Chief Executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children, updated the Bishops on developments relating to Safeguarding Children – Standards and Guidance Document for the Catholic Church in Ireland, which was published on 24 February last. Mr Elliott advised Bishops on the dissemination strategy of the document to priests and key personnel in parishes around the country.

Last year at the conclusion of an international conference for Catholic Bishops and their representatives on safeguarding children, held in Washington, Dr Monica Applewhite was invited to address the Irish Bishops’ Conference in Maynooth. Dr Applewhite has extensive experience in conducting research and root cause-analysis in the area of sexual abuse in organisations in order to assist them in developing best practice standards. Dr Applewhite’s experience includes working with a number of religious congregations. Dr Applewhite’s address to Bishops focused on the devious mindset of sexual abusers. Full text of Dr Applewhite’s address available here or in pdf format on www.safeguarding.ie.

Preparation for Easter

In this season of Lent, the call to renewal of our Christian life is a central part of our preparation for Easter. 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 Resurrection of Our Saviour.

Bishops strongly encourage the faithful, between now and Easter, to make time available in their busy schedules to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is a gift of God’s love to all of us.

Trócaire’s 2009 Lenten Campaign

For Lent 2009 Trócaire, the overseas development agency of the Bishops’ Conference, is highlighting the horrors faced by all those who have been driven from their homes due to war and conflict. Countless families have had their lives torn apart by armed conflicts in recent years and have ended up in camps or other temporary homes, usually with only what they could carry on their backs.
Of the 26 million people who have been uprooted from their communities and driven out of their homes in recent years, some 14 million are children. Children in such situations are exposed to great danger and exploitation. For example, children can be separated from their parents and brothers and sisters, abused and mistreated, and forced to take part in armed conflict as child soldiers. It is our Christian obligation to help people in such difficulties.
The boy’s face on this year’s Lenten box is that of Khalid Salat from Somalia, age 7 years. Khalid Salat’s story reflects the reality for thousands of children and families whose lives have been devastated by war as his family had to flee from a good home in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu when their neighbourhood was attacked. They now share a one-roomed house with 17 people on the Somalia-Kenya border. Khalid Salat has not seen his father since his family fled as he was separated from his parents.
Trócaire supports communities and families forced to flee from home as a consequence of war, with food, shelter, safe drinking water, healthcare and agricultural support to help people survive. When the violence ends Trócaire also helps people to return home and rebuild their lives with agriculture, counselling and housing. Education is a key part of Trócaire’s support for families in camps so as to help provide a future for children. Trócaire works with local groups that help communities find peace and healing after the trauma of war.
For 35 years Irish people have generously responded to Trócaire’s call for solidarity and practical action on behalf of our less well-off brothers and sisters in the developing world. Bishops are acutely aware that Trócaire’s appeal for Lent 2009 is being made at a time of grave economic difficulties in our own country as Irish people are losing their jobs at an unprecedented rate and we are all uncertain of what lies ahead.
Bishops ask the people of Ireland to remember during Lent those who do not have enough of life’s essentials: food, clean water, shelter, education because their very survival is at stake. To support Trócaire’s campaign please call 1850 408 408 or log onto www.trocaire.org
The Solemnity of Saint Patrick

St Patrick’s Day has always been a special day for Irish people living at home and around the world. The plight of Patrick, himself a migrant, has been faced by many Irish people, over the generations, who have struggled to live and integrate into new cultures. In 2009 there are many people living in Ireland facing similar challenges to those of Patrick. As a community we have a responsibility to support and protect those who have made Ireland their new home.
Guided by Pope Benedict XVI’s first Encyclical Letter: Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), we should ask ourselves the question: “Who is my Neighbour?” As Christians, we must be mindful to help the weaker amongst us in society, and our thoughts and actions are guided by the parable of the Good Samaritan. At this time we remember in our prayers those new members of our society who may be suffering today in Ireland due to family, unemployment or financial pressures. In the words of St Patrick: “Therefore may it never befall me to be separated by my God from his people whom he has won in this most remote land. I pray God that he gives me perseverance, and that he will deign that I should be a faithful witness for his sake right up to the time of my passing” (The Confession of St Patrick).
ACCORD – Catholic Marriage Care Service
ACCORD, the Catholic Marriage Care Service, presented a review of its marriage preparation course which is currently offered to couples by ACCORD. Bishops discussed at length the importance of marriage preparation courses for couples.
ACCORD outlined the results of a review process undertaken in 2008 which considered the age of the current programme, the profile of the couples getting married in the Church and the changes occurring in society.

A working group of ACCORD members undertook this review which was carried out between April and October 2008 and involved every member of ACCORD. This group surveyed the membership and a report was submitted to the ACCORD National Assembly in October 2008.

The review findings included the following:
– That the support of Bishops and priests is central to offering the best possible preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage.
– ACCORD is best placed to meet the needs of couples preparing for marriage in the Catholic Church through its centres which are located in every diocese.
– ACCORD members view their work as part of the pastoral care of couples within the Church.
– There is a commitment to voluntarism within ACCORD which brings an average of forty five new members into the organisation annually.
– There is a need to update the material used in ACCORD’s marriage preparation programme so as to take into consideration the changing face of society and contemporary challenges facing couples.
– That the best form of marriage preparation involves a multi-session programme (over more than one day), which enables couples to discuss those issues which may have arisen for them through the programme.
Support for the Holy Land
The Holy See established the Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in support of the Church in the Holy Land in 1998. This group is known as the HLC – the Holy Land Coordination – and consists of nine bishops representing the Episcopal Conferences of Ireland, UK, Scandinavia, France, Germany, Spain, the USA and Canada. Bishop Raymond Field, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Dublin and Father Eamon Martin, Executive Secretary of the Irish Episcopal Conference, attended the HLC conference in Bethlehem, the West Bank, which took place on 9 to 15 January last. Archbishop Twal, on behalf of all in the Latin Patriarchate, welcomed the group to the Holy Land and thanked the members for their continuing support for the dwindling Christian community in the region.

Arising from this visit a very strong request has been received from the Latin Patriarchate asking for the support of the Irish Bishops to encourage Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land.

Charities Act 2009

Bishops welcomed the signing into law of the Charities Act 2009. In seeking to prepare for the implementation of the Act, Bishops are finalising Guidelines on Financial Controls and Related Processes within Parishes as a resource to parishes to facilitate compliance under the charity’s legislation.
National Famine Memorial Day

Bishops welcomed the first national commemoration day for the Great Famine which will take place on 17 May next. Bishops discussed how the Church could best respond to this important initiative at a local level. It was agreed that Bishops and priests would bless Famine graves and lead the faithful in special prayers for the victims and generations of Irish emigrants who were displaced due to this national tragedy. These blessings and special prayers for the victims of the Famine will take place across the country on Sunday 17 May.
Keeping Sunday sacred

Ever since the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Sunday has held a special place in the weekly lives of His followers. Irish Christians named the day itself after Him: An Domhnach, the Lord’s Day. It is a day different in character to the other six days of the week, a day when we set aside all non-essential work so as to be free to devote time to family, to religious practices, visiting the sick and the elderly and to leisure and recreational pastimes. Until recent times we maintained a good balance between these elements of Sunday life.
In 2008 the European Parliament did not vote on the inclusion of Sunday rest in the Working Time Directive and a number of Members of the European Parliament (MEP’s) subsequently introduced a Written Declaration on the protection of Sunday.

The Declaration calls on the Member States and on the EU institutions to “protect Sunday as a weekly day of rest, in forthcoming national and EU working-times legislation in order to enhance the protection of workers’ health and the reconciliation of work and family life.”

Bishops appeal to MEPs to support this declaration in order to support the spiritual and social needs of family life and to respect the freedom of citizens to practice their faith on Sundays across the European Community.

Day for Life 2009

Day for Life is the day each year that the Church dedicates to celebrating the dignity of life from conception to natural death. The theme this year is suicide. A pastoral letter will be produced addressing this sensitive subject. Day for Life 2009 will be celebrated across the country on Sunday 4 October next.
Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in 2012

The next Eucharistic Congress, which will be celebrated in Dublin during dates around the solemn feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) in June 2012.
Year of Vocation – 13 April 2008 to 3 May 2009

Parishes are encouraged to promote prayer for vocations at all Masses, Eucharistic Adoration for vocations and to consider ‘vocation’ as the theme for novenas being held during the Lenten Season.

On 25 March a special one-day retreat will be held in Dublin which will focus on the different vocations which have been addressed as part of the Year of Vocation initiative, namely: the vocation of marriage, the single vocation, vocation and young people and vocation to priesthood and religious life. More details on the retreat will be announced closer to the date and general information on this special year is available on www.yourvocation.ie

Report on the 6th World Meeting of Families held in Mexico in January

The Theological-Pastoral Congress of the 6th World Meeting of Families was held in Mexico City between 14 and 18 January 2009. A delegation representing the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference was led by Bishop Christopher Jones, Bishop of Elphin and Chair of the Bishops’ Committee for the Family and Children.
The main aim of the Congress, which was opened by the President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, was to consider “The family as teacher of human and Christian values.” The Congress attracted 10,000 people from all over the world who had an opportunity to hear experts in the fields of theology, education, politics, law, and economics address the topic of family from different perspectives.

Various themes were explored such as family the first educator in Faith; the family as educator of dignity and respect for all human values; and the family as the first recipient and agent of the new evangelization.

The themes were explored from the perspectives of delegates who came from places as diverse as Tanzania, Honduras, Lebanon and Boston. Many of these delegates were themselves members of groups and movements such as the Focolare Movement, World Wide Marriage Encounter and Regnum Christi.

Pope Benedict XVI addressed the Congress via video-link at the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, and spoke of the vital role of the family as educator of justice and peace. The Pope said that it was the duty of all states to protect the rights of the family: the family contributes immeasurably to the harmony of society, and to peace in the world.

The Pope’s representative, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State also spoke of the family as the place where values – especially spiritual values – are forged and propagated. The family, he stated, when rooted in faith and freedom, is the “school of justice and peace … the family is called to be a protagonist of peace”.

During this World Meeting of Families the importance of improved communications, and in particular the power or impact of media especially on young people, was explored. While technological advances have brought great opportunities for people to come together, it was suggested that one of the main threats to the stability of the family were the proliferation of media such as television, the internet and video games.
It was announced that the 7th World Meeting of Families will be held in Milan in 2012 with the theme of ‘Family, Work and Celebration’. In advance of this date, Bishops supported the following preparatory programme for parishes in Ireland:
– to publicise the World Meeting of Families gathering in Milan in 2012;
– to organise discussions on the family, in particular parenting, and how parenting in itself can enhance the relationship of the married couple;
– to encourage Irish pilgrimages to the event in 2012. These pilgrimages will be organised in a similar way to the current annual diocesan pilgrimages to Lourdes;
– to promote a national day for marriage and the family.
Further information:
Martin Long, Director of Communications 086 172 7678
Brenda Drumm, Communications Officer 087 233 7797