Autumn 2014 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference concludes in Maynooth

01 Oct 2014

A press conference was held in the Columba Centre of Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth today at the conclusion of the Autumn General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.  In attendance were Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Bishop John McAreavey, Bishop William Crean, Mr Éamonn Meehan and Ms Lorna Gold.  Photographs for use by media can be accessed on  The following press release was circulated to media at the press conference:

  • New President of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference
  • Mass of Thanksgiving for the work of the Conference (ii) Honouring Cardinal Seán Brady
  • Special discussion on the pastoral priorities of the Church in Ireland
  • Synod on the Family
  • World Communications Day 2015
  • The Cry of the Earth – A Call to Action for Climate Justice
  • Towards Healing – confidential helpline and counselling referral service
  • Child Safeguarding
  • Theme for Day for Life 2014: ‘Protect and Cherish Life’
  • Conditions in Direct Provision Centres
  • Cura, the crisis pregnancy support service of the Catholic Church
  • Meeting of International Chaplains
  • Rosary Sunday
  • Prayers for persecuted Christians
  • Vocations (ii) Year for Consecrated Life 2015
  • October is Mission month
  • RTÉ’s decision to cease broadcasting on its LW transmitter

New President of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference

Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland was elected by the bishops as the new President of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference in succession to Cardinal Seán Brady who retired last month.  Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, remains as Vice-President of the Conference.  Other appointments included Bishop Denis Nulty, Bishop of Kildare & Leighlin as the new President of ACCORD Catholic marriage care service, and Bishop Kevin Doran, Bishop of Elphin, as Chair of the Bioethics Consultative Group.

Mass of Thanksgiving for the pastoral work of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ii) Honouring Cardinal Seán Brady

At the conclusion of the first day of the bishops’ meeting Archbishop Diarmuid Martin was chief celebrant and preacher at a special Mass of Thanksgiving for the pastoral work of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.  Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop Emeritus of Armagh; Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh; and Archbishop Dermot Clifford, Archbishop of Cashel & Emly, and about forty priests and bishops, concelebrated Mass in the College Chapel of Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth.  Archbishop Martin said, “This evening is a significant gathering in the life of the Irish Church.  It is an evening which clearly witnesses to the vitality of the Church in Ireland.  It is a gathering which brings together men and women, lay and clerical, religious and bishops all of whom work together in support of a wide range of services and aspects of the Church’s mission in today’s Ireland and indeed in many parts of the world.  It is a meeting of people who love the Church.  It is a group which represents so many dimensions of evangelisation and of the human promotion which is part of the service to society that the Church brings in its witness to the life and message of Jesus Christ.”

About two hundred people gathered at a social event after Mass at which Archbishop Martin paid tribute to Cardinal Brady for his contribution to the Church in Ireland as a priest of over fifty years, as President of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference since 1996, as a person of great spiritual depth, and for his innate kindness and wisdom.

Special discussion on the pastoral priorities of the Church in Ireland

In light of the appointment of many new members of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference it was considered useful to have an open general discussion with a look towards the future.  Every bishop contributed to this discussion on the first day of the plenary meeting which addressed:

–          pastoral priorities of the Irish Church for the coming years;

–          how the Conference is currently responding to them; and,

–          how can the Conference best face future challenges.

Bishops agreed to develop this discussion at the forthcoming five commission meetings of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

Synod on the Family

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin will represent the bishops at the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which will take place at the Vatican from 5 to 19 October, to discuss the topic: ‘The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelisation.’  Bishops invite the faithful to offer their prayerful support to the synod fathers.  The Bishops’ Conference website is hosting a special section on the synod which includes a special prayer by Pope Francis for the Synod of Bishops, please see

World Communications Day 2015

This week the Pontifical Council for Social Communications published the theme for World Communications 2015.  WCD was the only World Day established by Vatican Council II.  Bishops welcomed the WCD 2015 theme ‘Communicating the family: a privileged place of encounter with the gift of love’, and noted that it follows in continuity with last year’s message, as well as resonating with the subject of the next two Synods on the family.

The Cry of the Earth – A Call to Action for Climate Justice

Ahead of 4 October, Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi patron of the environment, bishops launched their pastoral reflection The Cry of the Earth – A Call to Action for Climate Justice at a press conference today in the Columba Centre, Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Bishops said that climate change is one of the most critical issues of our time. Climate change is not just a technical, scientific and economic issue, it is also a moral issue. The central moral issue is that the choices we make can undermine the well-being of millions of people, especially the poor.  Text and parish resources are available on

At the press conference Bishop John McAreavey, Bishop of Dromore and chair of the Council for Justice and Peace gave an overview of the pastoral reflection; Mr Éamonn Meehan, director of Trócaire the bishops’ overseas aid agency, outlined the impact of climate change as experienced on the ground by Trócaire; Ms Lorna Gold spoke about Trócaire’s plan for advocacy on this issue over the coming years; and, Bishop William Crean, Bishop of Cloyne and chair of Trócaire, suggested how local communities in Ireland can best support the work of Trócaire.

Towards Healing – confidential helpline and counselling referral service

A delegation from the ‘Towards Healing Confidential Helpline and Counselling Referral Service’ presented to the bishops on its current services and on trends in its work activities with survivors of clerical, religious and institutional abuse.  The Towards Healing service was established by the Catholic Church in Ireland in 2011 (in succession to ‘Faoiseamh’) and the delegation comprised Mr James Nugent SC, chairman; Mr Michael Lyons, CEO; Dr Melissa Dermody, clinical director; and, Ms Breda Flood, finance manager.

The bishops heard that since 2011 the Towards Healing service provided almost 107,000 face-to-face counselling services to survivors.  The helpline for the service provides a high level of support for clients and acts as a referral mechanism for clients who require face-to-face counselling.  Clients are referred to therapists usually within a week.  All of the Towards Healing services are provided free of charge to clients.  The service is funded by individual dioceses and religious congregations and costs approximately €3million per annum.

A key service provided is advocacy, which has seen a 92% increase in referrals since its establishment in 2013.  The advocacy service is designed to address the wider needs of survivors and assists them in accessing statutory and non-statutory services such as homelessness, family tracing, finance, health, social welfare and education.  Dr Dermody outlined the various ways in which Towards Healing interacts with its clients and referred to the feedback from clients.

Child Safeguarding

Ms Teresa Devlin, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Board for Safeguarding Children, along with the chair of the National Board, Mr John Morgan, appraised the Bishops’ Conference of the status of the National Board’s review process of congregations into safeguarding practice.  The National Board also provided an update on the revision of the Standards and Guidance document for the Catholic Church which is being reviewed to take account of developing legislation in Ireland and best practice in safeguarding children.

Bishops also heard a report on the annual ‘Anglophone Conference’ which ran from 7 to 11 July, and this year was held in the Pontifical Irish College in Rome.  The Anglophone Conference brings together child safeguarding experts and representatives from throughout the English-speaking Catholic Church.  This event was co-hosted by the Bishops’ Conferences of Ireland and Chile, assisted by the National Board for Safeguarding Children. Delegates from seventeen countries attended the conference and were afforded the opportunity to share experiences and best-practice in safeguarding children.  Keynote speakers included Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and Bishop Alejandro Goic, Bishop of Rancagua and President of the Chilean Conference of Bishops.  Ms Marie Collins and Father Hans Zollner SJ, members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, also addressed the conference as did Monsignor Robert Oliver, the Promoter of Justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  Dr Melissa Dermody, Clinical Director of Towards Healing, spoke on restorative practice with survivors.

Theme for Day for Life 2014: ‘Protect and Cherish Life’

Day for Life is celebrated annually by the Catholic Church in Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. It is a day dedicated to raising awareness about the meaning and value of human life at every stage and in every condition. The Day for Life will be celebrated in Ireland this Sunday 5 October on the theme “Protect and Cherish Life #livelife”.  On behalf of the Holy Father Pope Francis, the Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin has published a special message in support of our Day for Life this year:

Message from Pope Francis for Day for Life 2014

“As the Church in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales celebrates the 2014 ‘Day for Life’, the Holy Father expresses his confidence that this annual witness to the sanctity of God’s gift of life will inspire the faithful, and young Catholics in particular, to combat the culture of death, not only by working to ensure adequate legal protection for the fundamental human right to life, but also by seeking to bring the merciful love of Christ as a life-giving balm to those troubling ‘new forms of poverty and vulnerability’ (cf. Evangelii Gaudium 210) which are increasingly evident in contemporary society.  To all involved in the ‘Day for Life’ celebrations, His Holiness imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, joy and peace in the Risen Lord.”

Conditions in Direct Provision Centres

Pope Francis has made migration a signature issue of his pontificate.  He has spoken out on behalf of the migrants and “the globalisation of indifference” continually emphasising, “in an age of such vast movements of migration, large numbers of people are leaving their homelands, with a suitcase full of fears and desires, to undertake a hopeful and dangerous trip in search of more humane living conditions.”  The Holy Father has stressed the need to make efforts to ensure that “the dignity and the centrality of the human person is protected, promoting solidarity and dialogue between peoples.”  This has not been the case in Ireland.

Direct provision centres are located in parishes across fourteen dioceses.  Residents in five of these centres have protested over their living conditions in recent months and the system has led to severe delays in the processing of applications of those seeking protection.

Bishops have heard at first-hand about the standard of living which applies to direct provision centres, and wish to voice concern regarding conditions which residents must endure in what is supposed to be temporary accommodation.  Whilst living in direct provision centres for up to two years is challenging, many residents have been living in these centres for over five years.  Some families, parents and children are expected to live in one room together.  Single residents may have to share a room with several other adults and bathrooms are often shared.

Children are of particular concern, they constitute one third of all residents of direct provision and are uniquely vulnerable to the lifelong consequences of growing up in such an institutionalised environment.  Direct provision is not a natural family environment and children may have to share a space with other families, parents cannot prepare food for their children and long durations of stay and confined living space can lead to depression and mental health problems.

The Council for Immigrants of the Irish Bishops’ Conference encourages every diocese to actively support their local parishes charged with the pastoral and spiritual care of those living in direct provision centres in their local communities.

Cura, the crisis pregnancy support service of the Catholic Church

Bishops were advised that Cura, the crisis pregnancy support service of the Catholic Church, will hold its 28th National Conference on 3 and 4 October in Malahide, Dublin.  Following on from last year’s conference, the 2014 theme ‘The Holding Space: Part 2’ focuses on the role of the crisis pregnancy counsellor and the challenges, responsibilities, boundaries and opportunities they face in their day to day work.  The conference will be addressed by Una O’Brien, Clinical Midwife Specialist in Teenage Pregnancy, and Dr Colm O’Connor, clinical psychologist and family therapist, who will facilitate training workshops.  Over 150 Cura counsellors are due to attend the two day event.  Bishop Éamonn Walsh, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Dublin and President of Cura, and Helen Deely, Head of the Health Service Executive Crisis Pregnancy Programme will also address the delegates.

Meeting of International Chaplains

Bishops expressed their support for the first meeting of international Catholic chaplains based in Ireland who will gather tomorrow in the Avila Carmelite Centre, Dublin.  Irish international chaplains are entrusted to carry out, on behalf of the local Church, the special pastoral challenge of ministering to ethnic communities in their own language and culture.  It will be an opportunity for Irish international chaplains to familiarise themselves with the history, traditions and pastoral approach of the local Irish Church and to exchange ideas on enriching their parish life to reflect a new diverse Ireland.  The gathering will celebrate the work of chaplains from Poland, Brazil, India, China, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Nigeria, Romania, France and Italy who minister to over 280,000 non Irish Catholics in Ireland.  This will be the first of regular meetings hosted by the Council for Immigrants of the Irish Bishops’ Conference to support the work of International chaplains in parishes across Ireland.

Rosary Sunday

Rosary Sunday will be celebrated in parishes this Sunday 5 October 2014 (also the Day for Life 2014).  It is the Sunday closest to the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (7 October) and it coincides with the 60th anniversary of the Rosary Rally of Father Peyton, as well as the Marian Year of 1954.  Rosary Sunday is an invitation to people in parishes, in homes, in religious congregations to pray the Rosary for the intention of the Family, linking in with those gathered in Rome for the Synod on the Family. The once-common tradition of the family Rosary links very well with the theme of the Synod on the Family in Rome.  Resources including How to Pray the Rosary are available on

Prayers for persecuted Christians

Bishops discussed the plight of Christians who are facing persecution in Iraq and in the wider Middle East.  Bishops recalled and expressed support for the words of Pope Francis in his greetings in various languages following his general audience on 10 September, when he addressed, among others, the Arab-speaking faithful and in particular those from Syria and the Middle East, to remind them that the Church “faces hatred with love, vanquishes violence with forgiveness, and responds to weapons with prayer.  May the Lord reward your faithfulness, inspire you with courage in the struggle against the forces of evil, and open the eyes of those who have been blinded by evil, so that they may soon see the light of truth and repent for the mistakes they have made.  May the Lord bless you and protect you always”.

Bishops encourage the faithful to avail of the prayers and statements of support for Christians in Iraq and in the wider Middle East which are now available on and on

Vocations (ii) Year for Consecrated Life 2015

A detailed discussion took place regarding the fall in vocations to the priesthood and to religious life in Ireland.  Bishops shared their experiences and initiatives at a diocesan level and agreed to allocate special time to this important issue at their next meeting.

Pope Francis will initiate the Year for Consecrated Life 2015 before Advent.  The dedicated Year for Consecrated Life has been called in response from many who are consecrated in religious life and in the context of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, specifically on the 50th anniversary of the publication of the conciliar decree on the renewal of consecrated life Perfectae caritatis.  The Year for Consecrated Life 2015 will have three main objectives: to celebrate the past fifty years as a time of grace for consecrated life; to embrace the future as an opportunity to grow in depth, and with hope, notwithstanding the challenges of contemporary society which are faced by the Church; and, to promote this time as important for evangelising particularly with the presence of the consecrated at the margins of poverty and thought, as Pope Francis asked of their religious superiors at a meeting last January in the Vatican when he announced this special year.  Bishops ask the faithful to pray to support those who are consecrated to serve in religious life, and to pray for vocations.

Three representatives from the Conference of Religious of Ireland attended the Bishops’ Conference to discuss the celebration of the year for Consecrated Life.  Father Gregory Carroll, OP, vice-president of CORI was accompanied by Sisters Pat O’Donoghue and Eithne Woulfe.  CORI plans for the year include a weekly celebration of Evening Prayer in Clarendon Street Church, Dublin at 6:15pm from 4 December 2014 as well as pilgrimages to the Holy Land in early May, and to Knock on 30 May.  Other events planned include a seminar, open day and competitions for young people.  The meeting also discussed the value and contribution of religious to the life of the Church and society in Ireland and in Mission areas.  The hidden and effective presence of many older religious in present times was highlighted.  The importance of local and diocesan celebrations was also stressed, and the celebration of local religious in an ecclesial context.  The question of promoting religious life was raised and also its nurturing into the future.  It was agreed that these issues will be on the agenda of the next joint meeting of the Bishops’ Conference and CORI.

October is Mission month

Bishops thanked all those who generously support the Church’s missionary work and while appreciating the difficult financial circumstances currently facing many people across Ireland, asked that  the faithful support events throughout October Mission Month, the theme of which is ‘That they may have life’, particularly the National Day of Prayer on Friday, 10 October 2014 and the Mission Sunday collection on 19October 2014.

RTÉ’s decision to cease broadcasting on its LW transmitter

Serving its audience – especially a marginal audience – should be the priority for the national public service broadcaster.  RTÉ’s decision to close its Longwave 252 transmitter from 27 October on the grounds of cost, the environment and due to obsolete technology, will mean the end of broadcasting of worship programmes on this frequency.  It is also likely that the short-notice given by RTÉ will result in a net loss of listenership.  Bishops are concerned that the audience affected will be mostly rural, older, less well-off, living in the North of Ireland, as well as the elderly Irish in Britain.  Bishops ask RTÉ to consider postponing its decision and to undertake an audience survey in order to determine the actual number of listeners to its LW broadcasts of religious programmes; how prepared this radio audience is for a digital switchover; and, to determine which areas of the country (north and south) will be affected by this decision.  In tandem with such research, it would be very helpful if RTÉ sought to improve FM broadcasting across the North as good listening reception is inconsistent.


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