Bishops publish pastoral letter addressing suicide
The Catholic Church in Ireland celebrates Day for Life 2009 on Sunday 4 October. The theme for this year’s Day for Life is suicide, building on 2008’s focus on mental health. On behalf of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, Bishop John Fleming, Bishop of Killala, today launched the Day for Life Pastoral Letter You are Precious in my Sight (Isaiah 43:3).
Speaking on the occasion of the launch, Bishop Fleming said “‘You are precious in my sight’ is the theme for this year’s Day for Life – the day dedicated to raising awareness about the meaning and value of human life at every stage and in every condition. Day for Life 2009 focuses on suicide and in particular on the pastoral dimensions of this difficult and sensitive subject. It highlights why the Church believes that life is worth living and looks at some of the reasons why people may contemplate suicide. In particular, we reflect of the issue of mental illness, the stigma which tends to surround it and the resources which are available to those who suffer from it, as well the need for the promotion of positive mental health in our society.
“The Day for Life 2009 highlights the support that the professional services can bring to those who suffer. Our wish to reduce the stigma so often associated with mental illness, depression and suicide. Building up on last year’s focus on mental health, we hope that this year’s Day for Life – with its particular focus on suicide – will help raise awareness of the vital role played by families and a supportive parish community in sustaining those who may be struggling to cope.”
Bishop Fleming continued “Each of us has a duty to care for one another and, in particular, to care for the weak and the vulnerable in our society. The parish community can play an important role both in the promotion of mental health and in the provision of the support which says to its members that approaching a professional in the area of mental health is a sign of strength rather than an indication of weakness. Through the creation of a supportive and compassionate community, each of us can reach out to those who, for whatever reason, find life a great burden.
“The Day for Life 2009 also wishes to support those who have lost a friend or a family member through the taking of their own life. In helping them to understand the forces which may draw someone to do this, we wish to show them something of the love and compassion of Christ.”
“Life matters. It is commonly accepted that those who die by suicide don’t want to die; they simply wish to end their pain. Suicide prevention is, therefore, a duty of everyone in our society. In this area we need to be particularly concerned for other people and sensitive to their difficulties.” You are Precious in my Sight addresses pastoral issues around suicide such as why some people consider suicide and the issue of assisted suicide. Bishop Fleming said “Our Pastoral Letter is for everybody. It contains a special Day for Life prayer and it reminds us that “the message of the Gospel is that, whatever has happened to us, and whatever we have done, we can never be separated from the love of God in Jesus Christ. Pain, even tragedy, are never God’s last word.'”
Bishop Fleming concluded “I welcome the updated media guidelines for reporting suicide and self-harm which were published yesterday by the Samaritans and the Association of Suicidology. Media is more than just a conduit of drama, documentary and news: it has the power to influence public opinion for the common good. Everyone has a responsibility to treat the tragedy of suicide in a conscientious manner, being sensitive not to stigmatize it, understanding and supportive of those affected by it and at the same time avoiding its glorification.”
Day for Life was initiated by the late Pope John Paul II, to encourage the Catholic Church worldwide to promote and celebrate the sacredness of life.
- A video interview with Bishop John Fleming on the Day for Life Pastoral Letter You are Precious in my Sight (Isaiah 43:3) along with a copy of the Pastoral in English, Irish and Polish is available on www.catholicbishops.ie.
- You are Precious in my Sight has been distributed to all parishes in the 26 dioceses of Ireland ahead of Day for Life, Sunday 4 October 2009.
- Details of further resources and support can be found on the Day for Life website www.dayforlife.org, the Samaritans website www.samaritans.org, Turning the Tide of Suicide www.3ts.ie, the Irish Association of Suicidology www.ias.ie and with the National Office of Suicide Prevention www.nosp.ie
- In his 1995 Encyclical Letter, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), the late Pope John Paul II proposed that “a day for life be celebrated each year in every country.” The primary purpose of this day should be “to foster in individual consciences, in families, in the Church, and in civil society, a recognition of the meaning and value of human life at every stage and in every condition” (EV #85).
Day for Life is the day dedicated to celebrating the dignity of life from conception to natural death. Since 2001, the following themes have been chosen to celebrate the annual ‘Day for Life’:
– 2001: Proclaiming the Gospel of Life – 2002: End of Life Care – Ethical and Pastoral Issues – 2003: The Wonder of Life – celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Pontificate ofPope John Paul II – 2004: Life is for Living – A Reflection on Suicide – 2005: Cherishing the Evening of Life – 2006: Celebrating the life and presence of people with disabilities in the Church and in society – 2007: Blessed is the fruit of your womb – dedicated to protecting all human life – 2008: Mental Health – Mental ill-health can happen to anyone – 2009: Focus on suicide, particularly the pastoral dimensions of this difficult and sensitive subject