Summer 2012 General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference

30 May 2012

Fr Kevin Doran and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, pictured at the press conference.

A media briefing was held today in the Columba Centre, Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, to mark the final day of the Summer General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference.  In attendance were: Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin and President of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress 2012; Bishop Denis Brennan, Bishop of Ferns and co-chair of the Council for Communications; Bishop Kieran O’Reilly, Bishop of Killaloe and Chair of the ‘Share the Good News’ Implementation Committee; Rev Professor Michael Mullaney, Vice-President of Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth; Fr Kevin Doran, Secretary General of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress 2012; Mr Eamonn Meehan, Deputy Director of Trócaire – the overseas aid agency of the Irish Bishops’ Conference; and, Mr James Nugent SC, chair of the Towards Healing Counselling and Support Services for survivors of abuse.

Photographs are available by contacting the Catholic Communications Office, Maynooth.  An audio recording of this media briefing is available here: Part 1   Part 2   Part 3
Bishops addressed the following news items:

  • Prayers for victims (i) in Syria; and (ii) of the recent earthquakes in Italy
  • Ordinations to the Permanent Diaconate
  • International Theology Symposium hosted by the Faculty of Theology, Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth – 6 to 9 June 2012
  • 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin – 10 to 17 June 2012
  • Bishops’ agencies, councils and initiatives to be showcased at Eucharistic Congress
  • Update on progress of the Implementation Committee for Share the Good News
  • National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church
  • Towards Healing Counselling and Support Services for survivors of abuse
  • Aung San Suu Kyi – Trócaire NI Lenten campaign – Trócaire in East Africa – Bishop Gassis – UN Conference
  • Appointments Prayers for victims of (i) massacre in Syria; and (ii) the two earthquakes in Italy
  • Prayers for victims (i) in Syria; and (ii) of the recent earthquakes in Italy

Bishops joined with the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI in expressing deep sorrow and concern regarding the now 14 month civil conflict in Syria and in particular the massacre in the town of Houla last Friday 25 May in which an estimated one hundred people, including many children, lost their lives.  Bishops expressed support for the renewed appeal by the Holy Father for an end to all forms of violence, and on his call to the parties involved, and to the entire international community, to spare no effort to resolve this crisis through prayer, dialogue and reconciliation.

Bishops prayed for the repose of the souls of Father Ivo Martini and for all the victims who died as a result of the two recent earthquakes and aftershocks which struck Modena in the Emilia Romagna region of northern Italy.  Bishops conveyed their deepest sympathies to the people of Italy and asked the faithful to remember, in their daily prayers and at Mass, those who died, their families, and those injured and displaced by these powerful acts of nature.  Bishops encouraged everyone, through prayer and friendship, to express solidarity with the Italian community living in Ireland at this difficult time.

  • Ordinations to the Permanent Diaconate

Bishops offered their prayerful good wishes to the first group of permanent deacons to be ordained in Ireland since the re-institution of the permanent diaconate by the Second Vatican Council.  The ordinations will take place next weekend for the Archdiocese of Dublin.

Deacons are normally appointed to a parish near their home, and entrusted by their bishop with specific responsibilities. Some will take on specialised ministries which are in keeping with their gifts and experience.  Deacons exercise a ministry of charity; to proclaim the Gospel; assist the priest at the celebration of the Eucharist and at the celebrations of baptism and marriage; and, to preside at funerals.

Following the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI – as part of a wider renewal of ministry in the Church – restored the permanent diaconate in the Western Church. It was very much in keeping with the vision of the Council that there would be an ordained ministry in the Church which would have a particular focus on the care of those who are spiritually or socially marginalised.  The diaconate is an ordained ministry which traces its origins back to Apostolic times. As part of a process of renewal of ministries in the Church, both lay and ordained, the Second Vatican Council decided to restore the diaconate as a distinct ministry.  It is permanent in the sense that it is not simply a stage on the way to priesthood, and those who are ordained will serve as deacons.  In 2006, the Holy See agreed to a request from the Irish bishops for the restoration of the Permanent Diaconate in Ireland.  In the same year the Bishops’ Conference published The Permanent Diaconate – National Directory and Norms for Ireland.

  • International Theology Symposium hosted by the Faculty of Theology, Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth – 6 to 9 June 2012

The International Theology Symposium of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress 2012 will take place between 6 – 9 June at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth.  The theme for the Symposium is ‘The Ecclesiology of Communion Fifty Years after the Opening of Vatican II’.

The Symposium precedes the opening liturgical ceremony of the Eucharistic Congress in the Arena of the RDS which will take place on 10 June.   The Symposium will be attended by over 320 participants comprising lay people, priests and religious.  As an international event, the Symposium will hear expert contributions from international scholars across the disciplines of theology: Scripture, Systematics, Moral Theology, Liturgy, Pastoral Studies, Missiology and Ecumenics.

The Symposium will open with addresses from Professors Salvador Ryan and Brendan McConvery from Maynooth, and Jennifer O’Reilly (Royal Irish Academy), on ‘The Eucharist, Communion and the People in Irish Christianity’; the keynote speaker for the Symposium will be Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.  Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Cardinal Ouellet Papal Legate for the 50th International Eucharistic Congress.  Cardinal Ouellet was the Archbishop of Quebec, the diocese which hosted the 49th International Eucharistic Congress in 2008.

Also speaking will be Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, on the topic of ‘The Church as Communion, Ecumenism and the Eucharist’, and Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa (Honduras), who will address the topic of ‘Mission and the Eucharist’.  Dr Martin Stufflesser (Würzburg) will speak on the theme of Eucharistic Ecclesiology and the Liturgy; Professor Brian Johnstone (Catholic University of America) on ‘Sacraments as gifts of the Risen Christ’; and Dr Clare Watkins (Westminster Seminary) on ‘Living Eucharist in the Family Today’.

Irish theologians, Rev Dr Dermot Lane will present on the theme of the ‘Eucharist and Eschatology’; Father Michael Drumm (Catholic Schools Partnership) on ‘Being Educated in Communion’; Rev Professor Thomas Norris (Maynooth) on the ‘Reception of the Ecclesiology of Vatican II and the Marian profile of the Church’ and Rev Professor Eamonn Conway (Mary Immaculate College, Limerick) on ‘Being a Priest in a de-traditionalised cultural context’.

Dr Geraldine Smyth OP (Irish School of Ecumenics), and Rev Professor Robert Enright (Wisconsin-Madison) will present a paper on ‘Becoming Eucharist for One Another through Forgiving’.

The programme brochure for the Theology Symposium is available to download from the Eucharistic Congress site

  •  50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin – 10 to 17 June 2012

Pilgrims have until 4 June to register to attend the 50th  International Eucharistic Congress 2012 which will take place in the two Dublin venues of the RDS and Croke Park from 10 – 17 June next.

The International Eucharistic Congress is an international gathering of people, held every four years somewhere in the world, which aims to promote an awareness of the central place of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Catholic Church; to help improve our understanding and celebration of the liturgy and to draw attention to the social dimension of the Eucharist. These aims are achieved through a programme of pastoral preparation in the years leading up to the Congress and a programme of liturgical and cultural events, lectures and workshops over the course of one week.  Previous Congresses took place in Quebec (2008) and Guadalajara (2004).  The theme of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress is: ‘The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and with one Another’ (Communion – like Solidarity – means a relationship of mutual love and self-giving).

Up to 25,000 pilgrims can look forward to an extensive programme of liturgical and pastoral events in Dublin’s RDS which will involve 223 speakers and 160 workshops comprising talks, addresses, group reflections, meetings, concerts and plays.

Over 7,000 international pilgrims representing 123 countries will attend including from England, Wales, Scotland, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Australia, Puerto Rico, Japan, Peru, South Africa, Guadalupe, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, Taiwan, Zimbabwe, Turkmenistan, Nigeria, the USA and Canada (Quebec City hosted the 49th  International Eucharistic Congress in 2008).

Close to 80,000 pilgrims will gather for the Statio Orbis closing ceremony on 17 June in Croke Park and this will be a fully seated and ticketed event.  The Statio Orbis will include Mass at which the Papal Legate, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, will preside.  Details and the full list of Eucharistic Congress events is available on

Tickets may still be purchased by calling +353-1-2981122; or by email [email protected]; and on :

–          Limited number of €10 tickets for the Croke Park Statio Orbis ceremony on 17 June

–          Single day ticket for any day at RDS: €35

–          Special ‘Dual Tickets’ for the opening ceremony on 10 June in the RDS, and the Statio Orbis closing ceremony in Croke Park, available to jointly purchase for €40

–          Any three consecutive day programme in RDS from 10 – 16 June: €70

–          Full seven day programme in RDS from 10-16 June: €105

On 2 June a pilgrim walk will be led by Archbishop Martin, Archbishop of Dublin and Archbishop Michael Jackson, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin.  This ‘Dublin Camino’ is the first of its kind in the capital and will involve visiting the seven oldest churches in the City of Dublin.  This pilgrimage is a sacred journey during which pilgrims seek to strengthen and renew their faith.  This is a pastoral initiative of the Dublin Diocesan Eucharistic Congress Committee which is chaired by the Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin, Bishop Raymond Field.

  • Bishops’ agencies, councils and initiatives to be showcased at Congress

Staff and bishops will be available to pilgrims attending the Congress to help promote the pastoral work of the councils, agencies and initiatives of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.  The Bishops’ Conference will be represented at stands 180 and 181 in the exhibition space of the RDS.  The councils, agencies and initiatives form part of the departmental structure of the Bishops’ Conference and they represent the diverse and wide-ranging pastoral activities of the many lay faithful, religious and priests who work in collaboration with the bishops in service of the Church in Ireland.

The pastoral services supported by the Bishops’ Conference are inspired and motivated by the Gospel, the Word of God, which is for all.  Pastoral services supported include: Safeguarding Children, Towards Healing Counselling and Support Services for survivors, ACCORD Catholic Marriage Care Service, Cura Crisis Pregnancy Support, Trócaire overseas aid, Pastoral Response to Substance Misuse, Migrant care, Marriage and the Family, Education, Catechetics, Veritas Publications, Justice and Peace, Outreach to Prisoners, Liturgy, Pastoral Renewal and Adult Faith Development, Vocations, and the Catholic Communications Office.

  • Update on progress of the Implementation Committee for Share the Good News

The National Directory for Catechesis in Ireland – Share the Good News – is a ten year plan for renewal of the Church in Ireland and is essential reading for those involved in catechetical and other faith development initiatives at every level throughout the Church in Ireland.

The Implementation Committee for Share the Good News is responsible for developing and overseeing an operational plan for Share the Good News.  In spring 2013 a National Faith Development Team will replace the Implementation Committee.

Currently the Implementation Committee is a working group which supports and dialogues with others involved in pastoral activity, locally and regionally, in order to see how best the Directory can form their future activities.  In this sense, Share the Good News is a coming to life in practice for all those who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Share the Good News is a living document which speaks from the body of the Church.

Since its launch in January 2011, there has been a high level of social media interest in SGN and almost 5,000 copies have been sold.  There are plans that (facilitated by Pastoral Renewal and Adult Faith Development) will become a portal through which people can engage more fully with the content of the Directory.  Share the Good News will share space at the 50th International Eucharistic Congress 2012 with Veritas.  Share the Good News is a timely and valuable pastoral plan which can contribute towards renewal in Ireland now and in the aftermath of the Congress ahead of the Universal Church’s Year of Faith which begins in October.

  • National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church

Mr John Morgan, Chairman, and Mr Ian Elliott, Chief Executive, updated bishops on the work of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Bishops were appraised of the extensive ‘foundational and specialist’ training programmes which are being provided by the National Board and whose aim is to strengthen the safeguarding structure of the Church.  These training programmes involve bishops, priests, religious, safeguarding lay volunteers from parishes, and designated persons from dioceses.

The National Board has received an increase in requests for advice and guidance from dioceses over the last year.  Since its establishment, the National Case Management Reference Group, an initiative that has been introduced by the National Board to act as a further support to bishops seeking advice and guidance on safeguarding matters, has proven to be a very helpful resource to Church leaders in Ireland.

  • Towards Healing Counselling and Support Services for survivors of abuse

The Chairman of the Towards Healing Counselling and Support Services (formerly Faoiseamh), Mr James Nugent SC, along with the Chief Executive, Mr Michael Lyons, and Clinical Director, Dr Melissa Darmody, updated the Bishops’ Conference on recent activities.

The operation of the Towards Healing Counselling and Support Services reflects the commitment of the Catholic Church in Ireland to meet the counselling and related support needs of survivors of religious, clerical and institutional abuse. The service commenced on 1 February 2011 and succeeds the Faoiseamh Counselling service established in 1996 by the Sisters of Mercy.

In 2011, Towards Healing provided 28,000 counselling sessions to over 1,300 survivors, while its Helpline support service responded to nearly 12,000 calls. It also provided a wide range of other services including child protection, group work, practical workshops, restorative justice/facilitated listening meetings, a friendly call service and advocacy to survivors who suffered abuse as minors in Ireland.  The service is available irrespective of the survivor’s current residence and all services are free of charge to clients.  Towards Healing maintains a ‘no waiting list’ policy and in 2011 counselling was provided by 700 independent therapists.  The service in 2011 had a budget of €2m and this was financed by the Irish Bishops’ Conference, the Conference of Religious in Ireland and the Irish Missionary Union.

  • Aung San Suu Kyi – Trócaire NI Lenten campaign – Trócaire in East Africa – Bishop Gassis – UN Conference

Welcome of visit of Aung San Suu Kyi to Ireland

Bishops welcome the forthcoming visit on Aung San Suu Kyi to Ireland in the light of the continuing links between the Irish Church and Myanmar (Burma).  Trócaire continues to support a number of projects in the country. The Irish Columban Fathers, a number of whom are buried in Myanmar, had a missionary province in the northeast of the country until they were prevented from working there in the 1960s by the military dictatorship.  The Columban Fathers – in conjunction with the Diocese of Meath – continue to support education projects for disadvantaged children in the two dioceses where they had a presence.  Archbishop Grawng, Archbishop of Mandalay, is attending the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Ireland.

UK Department for International Development (DfID)“Matched Funding Scheme” and Trócaire Northern Ireland Lenten Campaign 2012

Under a new scheme introduced by the UK Department for International Development (DfID), the UK Government’s aid programme, Trócaire Northern Ireland has qualified for the maximum  amount of Stg£900,000 in matching funding from DfID.  Bishops wish to thank all concerned.

Trócaire work in East Africa

Bishops expressed their gratitude for the extraordinary generosity of people throughout Ireland who responded to Trócaire appeal in response to the drought in East Africa one year ago.  In 2011 Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia were struck by the worst famine in sixty years and €5.8 m was donated to support Trócaire’s emergency response, thanks to a national collection which took place in parishes across Ireland last July.

Thanks to these donations Trócaire has been providing support for over 400,000 people across the devastated areas as people recover and rebuild their livelihoods. This support has included providing 4,657 tonnes of food in Kenya, water to almost over 30,000 people in Somalia and distributing food to almost 30,000 people in Ethiopia.

Trócaire will continue to work with these communities, strengthening their defences against future droughts and helping them to cope with the increasingly devastating effects climate change is having across the developing world.

Visit of Bishop Macram Max Gassis, Bishop of El Obeid Diocese, Sudan

Cardinal Seán Brady, Bishop John Kirby and Bishop Raymond Field met Bishop Macram Max Gassis, Bishop of El Obeid Diocese, Sudan, during a recent visit by the latter to Trócaire. Bishop Gassis – nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize – came to Ireland as part of a European tour to raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis faced by the Nuba people of his diocese.  Caught in a battle for territory and resources between the governments of Sudan and the newly independent South Sudan, the Nuba people have been subjected to aerial bombardments, which threaten lives both directly and indirectly, through the destruction of vital infrastructure and disruption of farming, which is essential to the survival of this community.

Bishop Gassis expressed his thanks for the vital work carried out by Trócaire in the region. On behalf of the international Caritas Federation, Trócaire has been responding to the crisis in the Nuba Mountains through the Diocese of El Obeid since the fighting began in June 2011. Trócaire is supporting the only hospital for 300 miles – the Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountains – where staff are battling in severely crowded conditions to save the lives of those injured in the bombings or affected by the consequences through lack of food and clean water.

Bishops expressed their support for Bishop Gassis in his work for peace. Trócaire has appealed for all sides in the conflict to cease military operations, including aerial bombardment, and to comply with their obligations under International Humanitarian Law to allow safe and unhindered access for humanitarian aid to the region.

Reflecting on the situation in the newly established Republic of South Sudan, bishops noted that conditions in this, the world’s newest country, provide a powerful illustration of how much remains to be done in the target areas identified by the Millennium Development Goals: 90% of the population is surviving on less than $1 per day, only 1.9% are currently finishing primary school, and 90% of women are unable to read or write.  Bishops emphasised the need for Ireland to play its part in ensuring that the maximum effort is made to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and put in place structures to allow the continuation of this work beyond the target date.

Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development

Ahead of the Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, which will take place in Brazil on 20- 22 June next, bishops emphasised the need for world leaders to re-examine the current understanding of economic growth.

As Pope Benedict has argued in his 2009 Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate: “It is true that growth has taken place, and it continues to be a positive factor that has lifted billions of people out of misery — recently it has given many countries the possibility of becoming effective players in international politics. Yet it must be acknowledged that this same economic growth has been and continues to be weighed down by malfunctions and dramatic problems, highlighted even further by the current crisis.”

Bishops expressed the hope that the forthcoming summit would result in progress towards the development of a new model of economic growth which will address growing problems of inequality and resulting injustice and instability, founded on respect for the dignity of every human person, in right relations with one another and with the natural environment.

  • Appointments

The Trustees of the Pontifical Irish College, Rome, Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop Dermot Clifford and Archbishop Michael Neary, announced the following new appointments to the staff of the Pontifical Irish College, Rome.  These are:

–          Father George Hayes, Diocese of Kerry, as Vice Rector; and,

–          Father Hugh Clifford, Diocese of Galway, as Director of Formation.

The appointment of the new Spiritual Director will be made in due course.

The archbishops, as Trustees of Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, also announced the appointment of Rev Dr Kevin O’Gorman SMA as lecturer in Moral Theology at Saint Patrick’s College.

Bishops wished Father Hayes, Father Clifford and Father O’Gorman well in their new ministries.


For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth 00353 01 505 3017, Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444