March 2011 General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference

03 Mar 2011

3 March 2011

March 2011 General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference

The March General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference concluded yesterday evening in the Columba Centre in St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.  The following issues were discussed by the bishops during their meeting:
  • New Roman Missal
  • Lent and preparation for Easter
  • Share the Good News
  • Safeguarding Children
  • Prayers for the people of New Zealand, North Africa and Southern Sudan
  • Pastoral Letter of Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland
  • Launch of the International Eucharistic Congress in Ireland in 2012
  • Meeting of the Commission for Worship, Pastoral Renewal and Faith Development and representatives of the Association of Catholic Priests
  • The Solemnity of St Patrick
  • General Election in the Republic
  • Policing in Northern Ireland
  • Beatification of John Paul II on Divine Mercy Sunday 1 May 2011

New Roman Missal
A statement on the publication of the new Roman Missal is being prepared and will be published shortly.

Lent and preparation for Easter
As we enter the season of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday 9 March, 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 2011 Lenten Campaign
Lent is a time for reflection and for giving. In his 2011 Lenten message, Pope Benedict XVI highlights the Christian tradition of alms-giving during this important time of the year: “The practice of almsgiving is a reminder of God’s primacy and turns our attention towards others, so that we may rediscover how good our Father is, and receive his mercy.”

Bishops ask Irish people to remember Trócaire during Lent and help to bring hope and dignity to those who need it most.  The theme of Trócaire’s Lenten Campaign 2011 is “By coming together people live”. The campaign focuses on the community of La Canfianza in Northern Honduras, who are endeavouring to secure ownership rights for land in order to make a living for their community and families.

For almost four decades, Trócaire’s Lenten campaigns have brought dignity and hope to many of the world’s poorest people. Globally, poverty claims 50,000 lives each and every day. Each year, the Irish people, in solidarity with the poor and through their commitment to Trócaire’s work, generously donate their time and money in support for those in the developing world who are in true need.

Through their long-standing support for Trócaire, Irish people have helped communities in the developing world to overcome oppression, to have a voice, to secure the right to land and water, grow food, educate their children and earn a living.

Share the Good News
Bishops welcomed the publication on 6 January last of Share the Good News: National Directory for Catechesis in Ireland.  The Directory was launched in Mater Dei Institute of Education Dublin by Cardinal Seán Brady,  Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and Bishop Bill Murphy.  Share the Good News is a ten year plan for evangelisation, for catechesis and for religious education in the Catholic Church in Ireland. 

The Council for Catechetics has begun the task of ensuring the fullest possible  of implementation of Share the Good News.

Safeguarding Children

Mr John Morgan (chairman) and Mr Ian Elliott (chief executive) of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church presented an update to the Bishops’ Conference on the progress of the review of safeguarding practice that the NBSCCC had been requested to undertake.

Bishops were advised of the progress to strengthen further the existing safeguarding framework.  This includes revised guidance on leave from ministry for clergy and religious. There is also guidance on the vetting of staff and volunteers in roles involving contact with children.

Prayers for the people of New Zealand, North Africa and Southern Sudan
Bishops ask the faithful to remember in their prayers those who have died or were injured, and their loved ones, in February’s earthquake in New Zealand.

Bishops also reflected on the political crisis and social unrest which has affected Tunisia, Egypt and Libya since the start of the year.  Bishops criticised the attacks on individuals and the hardship families have suffered arising from these conflicts.  Bishops ask people of goodwill and influence to work to find just and peaceful resolutions to alleviate the suffering of the people in this region.

Bishops noted the relatively peaceful outcome following the referendum on independence for South Sudan last 9th – 15th January. The people of South Sudan voted for secession from the north and will, on 9th July, formally establishing Africa’s newest independent state.  While the new country will face many challenges in the future, the referendum process passed off without a return to the widespread conflict which has decimated the region over recent decades. Tragically, over two million people have been killed in the conflict between north and south Sudan.

Recently the bishops of Sudan called for peace and cooperation between the people of north and south stating: “Secession is a division of land, not a division of peoples.  It need not be a breaking of relationships.  Cooperation and collaboration must continue in a spirit of good neighbourliness.

Mutually beneficial compromises must be reached over issues such as oil, borders and citizenship.  Southerners will continue to live in the north and northerners in the south.  Churches and mosques will continue in both the north and the south.  We, as children of God, extend our hands to our Muslim brothers and sisters in Sudan in a spirit of peace and reconciliation.”

The Irish Bishops’ Conference asks the faithful to pray that the referendum will deliver a positive new beginning for the people of north and south Sudan, so that peace and stability can be sustained in the region.  Bishops also asked that we remember in our prayers the members of Irish missionary Congregations currently working in Southern Sudan which include Loreto Sisters, Faithful Companions of Jesus, Holy Faith Sisters and St Patrick’s Missionary Society (Kiltegan Fathers).

In November, Bishop John Kirby, Bishop of Clonfert and chairman of Trócaire, will lead a delegation to Southern Sudan in support of the local Church, bishops and the Irish missionaries working in the country.

Pastoral Letter of Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland
Bishops expressed again their gratitude to all those who continue to offer their helpful reflections on the Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, which was published by Pope Benedict XVI in March of last year.  Bishops emphasised their commitment to “profound renewal” of the Church in Ireland and for “a new vision to inspire present and future generations to treasure the gift of our common faith” (Pastoral Letter 12).

In the nine months from April to December over 3,000 people contributed written responses to Pope Benedict’s letter.  Just over a quarter of these came through diocesan channels, a fifth from lay associations and almost half from religious communities. The rest came from informed groups and individuals. A summary was presented to the previous bishops’ conference meeting and is available on (see under Pastoral Renewal and Adult Faith Development).

Arising from these reflections received from the faithful, bishops intend to produce a series of pamphlets for publication and these will address the themes and issues of pastoral renewal and practical development in parishes and dioceses.

Bishops encourage all the faithful of Ireland to make special time for prayer in this the Year of Matthew which began on the first Sunday of Advent 2010 and encouraged participation in Scripture-based prayer to guide the renewal of the Church in Ireland at this time.

In his Pastoral Letter Pope Benedict wrote about the importance of Friday Penance as “an outpouring of God’s mercy and the Holy Spirit’s gifts of holiness and strength upon the Church”.  As we approach the beginning of Lent, bishops highlighted the practice of Friday Penance for all of Christ’s faithful.  A special leaflet Friday Penance is available on

Launch of the International Eucharistic Congress 2012 in Ireland
Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, will formally launch the International Eucharistic Congress 2012 in Ireland at a press conference in the RDS this Monday 7 March.  Archbishop Martin is President of the International Eucharistic Congress 2012.

Fr Kevin Doran, Secretary General of the Congress, updated the bishops on preparations for the Eucharistic Congress which takes place in June 2012.   This discussion addressed:

–  the plans for the formal launch of the Congress next week;
–  the regular praying of the Congress prayer at Mass and other parish gatherings throughout Ireland;
–  the launch of the volunteer programme which aims to engage up to 3,000 people in the pastoral and practical preparations over the next 18 months.

Bishops expressed their conviction that the Eucharistic Congress offers the faithful an opportunity for a positive celebration of Church in our parishes, dioceses and nationally.  Bishops agreed that the success of the Congress would be measured both in a richer celebration of the Eucharist and in a greater spirit of social solidarity.

Bishops acknowledged that the current difficult financial circumstances constitute an additional challenge for the organisers of the Congress.  Bishops expressed their deep appreciation of the generosity shown by the Irish people to date.

Fr Doran emphasised that the Congress is more than an event, rather it is a pilgrimage of renewal for the whole Church in Ireland.  Fr Doran said “In addition to renewing our relationship with Jesus Christ, people are challenged to engage actively in the process of restoring communion with one another, both in the Church and in society.”

Meeting of the Commission for Worship, Pastoral Renewal and Faith Development and representatives of the Association of Catholic Priests
At the request of the Association of Catholic Priests, the Commission for Worship, Pastoral Renewal and Faith Development of the Irish Bishops’ Conference met with representatives of the ACP to listen to their presentations.  These views addressed the introduction of the new Roman Missal and ongoing renewal in the Church in Ireland.

The Solemnity of St Patrick
Bishops wish everyone a joyful and peaceful St Patrick’s Day on 17 March.  St Patrick’s Day has always been a special day for Irish people living at home and around the world. The plight of Patrick, who himself was a migrant, has been faced by many Irish people, over the generations, who have struggled to live and integrate into new cultures.  We face this sad reality again in Ireland in 2011.  All visitors to Ireland for the feast of our patron saint should be given the warmest of welcomes.

General Election in the Republic
Bishops congratulated the newly-elected members of the 31st Dáil, commending their willingness to take on the noble vocation of political leadership at a time of unprecedented challenges on a political, social and economic level.

Reflecting on the key messages of From Crisis to Hope: Working to Achieve the Common Good, which was published last week by the Council for Justice and Peace of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, bishops acknowledged the extent of the fear and suffering throughout the country.

Bishops said “Notwithstanding society’s understandable preoccupation with economic recovery, our obligation to defend the dignity of every human person and protect the common good must not be forgotten at the present time.  Public policy should always support and protect the common good.  Strengthening the family, based on marriage between a man and a woman, as well as promoting and protecting human life at all its stages is fundamental in this regard.”

Policing in Northern Ireland
Bishops condemned all acts of violence against members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and called on people from every religious and political background to actively support those women and men of the PSNI who courageously serve the safety, peace and well being of society in Northern Ireland.

Bishops called for the retention of the current ‘50:50’ in special recruitment provisions for the PSNI.  This provision is expected to be reviewed this month by Mr Owen Patterson, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Bishops noted that recruitment challenges remain for the PSNI as there is continued under-representation of Catholics in the senior ranks of the PSNI.  The current level of 29% Catholic membership of the PSNI is not sufficiently representative of the community background of the workforce in Northern Ireland.

Bishops also called for increased efforts to encourage senior ranking officers from the police services of the Republic and Britain to join the PSNI.

Beatification of John Paul II on Divine Mercy Sunday 1 May 2011

The Beatification of Pope John Paul II will take place on Divine Mercy Sunday, 1 May 2011.  A vigil of preparation will take place on 30 April from 8.00 pm to 10:30pm in the Circus Maximus of Rome.  The event will be organised by the diocese of Rome, and Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Pope Benedict XVI’s Vicar for Rome, will preside.

Cardinal Brady will lead a delegation of bishops to the Beatification Mass which will begin on Sunday, 1 May at 10.00am.  Pope Benedict XVI will preside at the Mass which will be celebrated in St Peter’s Square.  No tickets are required for this Mass.

On 2 May Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, will preside at a Mass of Thanksgiving in St Peter’s Square at 10:30am.  The Vatican has stated that the remains of John Paul II will then be transferred to the Chapel of Saint Sebastian in St Peter’s Basilica, and that the event will take place privately.

On the same day at 3.30pm a Mass of thanksgiving for Irish pilgrims attending the Beatification of John Paul II will be celebrated by Cardinal Brady at the Basilica Parrocchiale di Santa Maria in Domnica alla Navicella, which is close by the Pontifical Irish College.


Further information:
Martin Long, Director of Communications 00353 (0) 86 172 7678
Brenda Drumm, Communications Officer 00353 (0) 87 310 4444