Spring 2012 General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference

08 Mar 2012

Spring 2012 General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference

Today a press conference was held in the Columba Centre, Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth marking the closing of the Spring General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference.  The bishops attending the press conference were: Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, President of the Eucharistic Congress;  Bishop Kieran O’Reilly, Bishop of Killaloe and chairman of Share the Good News; and, Bishop Donal McKeown, Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor and member of the Bishops’ Council for Emigrants.  The full audio recording of the press conference is available here.

The following subjects were discussed at the bishops’ spring meeting:

•    Lent and preparation for Easter
•    Safeguarding Children
•    50th International Eucharistic Congress in Ireland, 10 – 17 June 2012
•    Share the Good News: National Directory for Catechesis
•    The Solemnity of Saint Patrick
•    Trócaire’s 2012 Lenten Campaign “Rebuilding Communities for lasting change”

•    Lent and preparation for Easter
In this the season of Lent the call to renewal of our Christian life is a central part of our preparation for Easter.  Bishops ask the faithful to offer up their fasting, prayer, reading of Scripture and works of mercy* during Lent 2012 for the grace of healing and renewal for the Church in Ireland.  Penance is an essential part of the lives of all Christ’s faithful.  It arises from the Lord’s call to conversion and repentance.  Christians do penance: in memory of the Passion and death of our Lord; as a sharing in Christ’s suffering; as an expression of inner conversion; as a form of reparation for sin.  Drawing particular attention to the ‘concrete initiatives’ proposed by the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI in paragraph 14 of his Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland of March 2010, bishops specifically encourage the faithful and parish communities:

•    to renew the practice of making the Sign of the Cross as they pass a Church in acknowledgement of the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist and as part of personal preparation for this year’s 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Ireland in June;
•    acknowledging the long tradition of fasting on Fridays, manifested in abstaining from meat, to renew this practice;
•    to make a special effort to avail of the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Holy Week, with parishes providing additional opportunities for the celebration of the sacrament during this time, as well as leaflets to support the faithful in participating in this sacrament;
•    to promote the practice of ‘the Easter Duty’, whereby all the faithful of communicant age are encouraged to approach the sacrament of Penance and to receive Holy Communion at least once a year, during the Easter season (cf. Canon 920);
•    to extend the provision and practice of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the period up to the International Eucharistic Congress, and in particular to provide opportunities for children and young people to experience adoration of the Blessed Sacrament followed by Benediction;
•    to study and reflect upon the Gospel of Mark during the remainder of the liturgical year, with the assistance of the wide range of supporting materials available online or in Catholic bookshops;
•    noting the Message of Pope Benedict XVI for the 46th World Communications Day, entitled ‘Silence and Word: Path of Evangelisation’, to set aside regular times of silence for prayer and reflection as individuals and families, and in particular to maintain an atmosphere of prayerful silence when in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and in Churches generally;
•    to make a penitential pilgrimage to Lough Derg during the coming year, in response to the call for ‘self-examination, inner purification and spiritual renewal’ (n.11) in the Pastoral Letter of Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland.

Bishops ask that the faithful avail of Lent as a special time “to pray for an outpouring of God’s mercy and the Holy Spirit’s gifts of holiness and strength upon the Church” in Ireland, as part of the spiritual preparation for the International Eucharistic Congress.

(*The Catechism of the Catholic Church states (n.2447): “The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbour. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.  Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God”) (cf. James 2:15-16; 1 John 3:17).

•    Safeguarding Children
In a wide ranging presentation of the current work being undertaken by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland, Mr John Morgan, Chairman, and Ms Teresa Devlin, Director of Safeguarding, addressed the status of the current review process which involves both dioceses and religious congregations.  Bishops were advised that it is anticipated that a further seven reviews will have been completed by mid-summer next.  Bishops whose dioceses had already been reviewed by the National Board acknowledged the professionalism and help that the NBSCCCI staff extended throughout the process.

Bishops were also advised of the positive endorsement received from engagement with the Deputy Irish Human Rights Commissioner in Dublin, and his legal advisor, in relation to the recently issued Leave from Ministry interim guidance, now applicable on an all-Ireland basis.

The Director of Safeguarding outlined the extensive new training programme, currently being delivered across the Church, in line with legislation and guidance in both jurisdictions in Ireland, and in line with Safeguarding Children, Standards and Guidance for the Catholic Church in Ireland.  This programme provides, for the first time, all Church personnel with specific training and support materials to assist with the implementation of child safeguarding standards already approved by the Bishops’ Conference, Conference of Religious of Ireland and the Irish Missionary Union.  This programme goes beyond the current training provided by the statutory authorities and has been verified by those authorities.

•    50th International Eucharistic Congress in Ireland, 10 – 17 June 2012
With less than 100 days to go to the 50th International Eucharistic Congress, bishops were informed that bookings have now just reached 7,000.  95 countries will be represented at the Congress, including over 1,000 people from Canada (Quebec city hosted the last Congress in 2008), over 400 from the United States, 77 people from the Congo and also representatives from Australia, Britain, Germany, France, Nigeria, Hong Kong, Slovakia, Puerto Rico, Thailand, Taiwan and Equatorial Guinea.

Meanwhile many dioceses are organising transport to bring pilgrims to the Congress on various days of the Congress week.  Plans are in place to facilitate the participation of parish choirs. Secretary General of the Congress, Father Kevin Doran, expressed the hope that parishes might consider sponsoring young adults to participate in the Congress youth programme.

In the context of a visit to Rome for Saint Patrick’s Day, the Eucharistic Congress Bell will be received by Pope Benedict XVI at a General Audience next week.

Theological Symposium
The Pontifical University, Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth is hosting an international theology symposium from 6 to 9 June. The year 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council that so strongly underlined the ecclesiology of communion. The theology symposium examines the status questionis fifty years on. There will be expert contributions from scholars across the disciplines of theology – scripture, systematics, moral theology, liturgy, pastoral studies, missiology and ecumenics.  There will be plenary sessions, seminars and liturgies.  The symposium is aimed at participants who have at least a graduate level (or equivalent) of study in theology.  In preparation for the Eucharistic Congress, bishops encourage priests, theologians and students of theology and people with an interest in theology to attend and further information can be obtained on www.iec2012.ie/theologicalsymposium

Background to the International Eucharistic Congress 2012
The theme for the 50th Congress is “The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and with one another” and it will involve two main venues in the RDS and Croke Park, Dublin.  The week long programme in the RDS consists of prayer, Eucharist, workshops, discussion groups, catechesis and testimonies, cultural events, tours, exhibitions, and a Eucharistic Procession.  It is expected to involve 25,000 pilgrims participating in over 150 workshops; including 12,000 pilgrims from the five continents; and 80,000 participants at the Statio Orbis – the official title for the final Mass of the Congress, which will take place on 17 June 2012 in Croke Park.  More information is available on www.iec2012.ie and 00 353 1 2349900.

•    Share the Good News
The publication in January 2011 of Share the Good News: National Directory for Catechesis in Ireland by the Irish Bishops’ Conference initiated a ten year plan for evangelisation, for catechesis and for religious education in the Catholic Church in Ireland.  The bishops’ Council for Catechetics is overseeing the task of ensuring the fullest possible of implementation of Share the Good News.

It highlights the responsibility at all levels within the Catholic Church – parish, diocesan and national – for developing faith and faith community.  The Directory is a resource containing theological, scriptural, and prayerful reflections.

Share the Good News reminds Catholics that the mission to evangelise is never to be understood as a personal cause, but is undertaken in the name of the Church and of Jesus Christ.  The Directory emphasises that as well as missionary evangalisation, there is a need for on-going pastoral evangelisation within the community of the Church itself.  With this in mind the bishops are agreed that Share the Good News will provide the framework for the response to the Year of Faith announced by Pope Benedict XVI which will begin next October.  It will also provide a basis for on-going initiatives at parish, diocesan and national level over the coming aimed at promoting renewal in the Church in Ireland.

•    The Solemnity of Saint Patrick and emigration
Saint Patrick’s Day is a special day for Irish people living at home and abroad.  In 2012 we celebrate our national saint’s day in the midst of a deep economic recession which has resulted again in the heartbreak and pressure of unemployment and emigration for many individuals and families throughout Ireland.

The plight of Patrick, himself a migrant, has been faced by many Irish people who have struggled to live and integrate into new cultures.  Patrick was called to serve and bring God to a people far from his homeland.  Our national Saint was a pioneer in an inhospitable climate.  In the words of Saint Patrick “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).

According to the Central Statistics Office, as of last September, 40,200 people from the Republic emigrated in the year to April, a rise of 45% on the previous 12 months.  Bishops discussed the pastoral needs of the new generation of Irish emigrants.  As a response the bishops’ Council for Emigrants is preparing an information pack for publication to coincide with Saint Patrick’s Day.  It will equip our emigrants with material that will allow them make informed decisions as well as support them in their new life abroad.

This information pack will be available online and will include: (i) a snapshot of the reality of emigration, which will include stories from Irish emigrants about their personal experiences of emigration and stories from those who work to support Irish emigrants; (ii) practical information on emigration, such as visa requirements and information on accommodation and employment, and health insurance; and (iii) prayers for emigrants.

•    Trócaire’s 2012 Lenten Campaign “Rebuilding Communities for lasting change”
As the Church in Ireland prepares for the International Eucharistic Congress this June, the theme of ‘community’ is to the fore of many people’s minds.  Similarly in his 2012 Lenten message, Pope Benedict XVI draws on the brief biblical passage from the Letter to the Hebrews: “Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works”. In this message the Holy Father speaks of the importance of being concerned not just for the physical wellbeing of others but also for their spiritual wellbeing.

Lent is a time for reflection and for giving.  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 2012 Lenten Campaign is: “Rebuilding Communities for lasting change”. This year, Trócaire’s Lenten campaign focuses on communities in northern Uganda who are trying to rebuild their lives after 20 years of war.

Bishops acknowledged the extraordinary generosity of priests, religious and lay faithful to Trócaire’s fundraising campaigns throughout 2011 and also appealing for renewed support for Trócaire’s current Lenten Campaign.

For 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 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.


Further information:
Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444