Statement of the Irish Bishops for the occasion of the National Famine Commemoration Day

11 May 2010

11 May 2010

Statement of the Irish Bishops for the occasion of the National Famine Commemoration Day

Sunday 16 May 2010 – You will be my Witnesses (Acts 1:8)

As the country holds the second National Famine Commemoration Day, we are confronted by the shocking reality that more than one billion people on the planet are victims of hunger. Remembering the millions who died or were forced to emigrate at the time of the Irish Famine brings to mind that almost one in six of the world’s people does not have enough food to eat today.  On this Ascension Day we hear the words of Jesus: “You will be my witnesses… to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  As witnesses to Christ’s love we are challenged to ‘feed the hungry’ and to give concrete expression to Christ’s deep concern for the poor.

In his recent encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI pointed out that the elimination of world hunger has become a requirement for safeguarding the peace and stability of the planet. It is necessary, wrote the Holy Father, ‘to cultivate a public conscience that considers food and access to water as universal rights of all human beings, without distinction or discrimination’.

In September 2010 world leaders will gather at the United Nations in New York to assess progress in implementing the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Included in the first of these is an international determination to reduce by half the number of people living in hunger by the year 2015.  Agencies like Trócaire are actively engaged in the MDG process. The Irish government made a special commitment to pursue this target particularly in the light of our national experience of famine. As we urge other developed countries to meet their commitments on development aid, fair trade and the relief of debt, we too must fulfil our responsibilities in these areas.  We owe it to those who suffered at the time of the Irish Famine to stand in solidarity with the hungry of today.

We encourage parish communities to find an appropriate way of marking the National Famine Commemoration Day locally.   

Prayer of Intercession:

On this day when we remember the tragedy of the great famine in Ireland we pray for a change of heart that will bring to an end to the injustice that keeps people hungry and oppressed.  

Lord hear us.

We pray that leaders with compassionate hearts and courageous imagination will come forward to work for change and bring about justice and peace.

Lord hear us.

For the poor and hungry, that they may find comfort and support in and through the generosity of the Christian community.

Lord hear us.

Remembering the words of Jesus ‘You will be witnesses…to the ends of the earth’ we pray that all gathered here may find courage to stand up to defend the weakest and most distressed in our world.  

Lord hear us.

Ideas for National Famine Commemoration Day:

  • Pilgrimage to and/or prayer at a local famine site or graveyard.
  • Prayer of Intercession at Sunday Mass on 16th May.
  • Bishops’ Statement (above) printed in Parish Bulletin or available in Churches.
  • Schools encouraged to have a special assembly or project on famine.
  • The National Famine Commemoration page of the website of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, has other ideas e.g. the holding of a one minute’s silence followed by the ringing of Church Bells at 2.00pm to mark the day.


Further information:
Brenda Drumm, Communications Officer, 087 310 4444