Launch of The Meaning of Marriage, a pastoral statement by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference

03 Dec 2014

At a media conference today at Columba Centre, Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Bishop Liam MacDaid, chairman of the Council for Marriage and Family, along with Bishop Kevin Doran, Bishop of Elphin, officially launched the pastoral statement The Meaning of Marriage on behalf of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.  The pastoral statement advises the faithful that “to redefine the nature of marriage would be to undermine it as the fundamental building block of our society.  The Church seeks with others to reaffirm … that marriage should be reserved for the unique and complementary relationship between a woman and a man from which the generation and upbringing of children is uniquely possible.”

Bishops encourage everyone to read The Meaning of Marriage which is currently being distributed to over 1,300 parishes throughout the island.  The pastoral statement can also be downloaded in the English, Irish and Polish language on   A selection of images from the launch for use by media is available on the Catholic Bishops’ Flickr page  Please see below remarks by Bishop MacDaid and Bishop Doran from today’s media launch.

Remarks by Bishop Liam MacDaid

Good afternoon and welcome to you all.  We appreciate your acceptance of our invitation.  My name is Bishop Liam MacDaid of the Diocese of Clogher.  I welcome you as Chairperson of the Council for Marriage and the Family.

Today on behalf of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference we are launching a pastoral statement entitled, The Meaning of Marriage.  This pastoral statement is intended to put before our people, again, the Christian understanding of marriage – a communion of life and love between a man and a woman, in a union for life which is open to new life; and which provides the best and most stable environment for children to grow up and develop.

Currently this pastoral statement is being distributed to our people through parishes and other outlets.  It is also available online.

We wish and encourage everyone to read carefully this pastoral statement so as to be better informed in preparation for the debate which will inevitably unfold during the coming referendum.  As part of its preparation, this statement has been piloted among a cross-section of people and age groups, and I am glad to be able to say that there has been a considerable input by married couples.

I will pass over to Bishop Kevin Doran for a few minutes.

You may have some questions then which you would like to put to us and we will do our best to give you whatever information you may need.

Thank you for your attention.

Remarks by Bishop Kevin Doran

As you will probably be aware, the recent Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in Rome in October focussed on the theme of “Pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelisation”.  The Irish Bishops’ Conference was represented at the Synod by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.  The Synod was the first part of a two stage initiative by Pope Francis.  The second stage will take place over three weeks in October 2015.

In the meantime, each Episcopal Conference around the world has been asked to begin a conversation within the local Church, about the meaning of marriage and about how we, as a community of faith, can together respond to challenges facing the family today.

As is the case with any conversation, the pastoral statement is not prepared in a vacuum.  It was prepared in the context of the proposal by Government to redefine the “Meaning of Marriage” by asking people in this jurisdiction to extend marriage to same-sex couples.  The pastoral statement makes it clear that this would be a contradiction in terms, because marriage is, of its nature, a committed relationship between a man and woman which is open to the transmission of life.

The Synod of Bishops did not at any stage suggest that the Church’s teaching on marriage could be, somehow, changed.  Its purpose was to consider the Church’s pastoral response to the challenges facing the family.

The primary concern of the Irish bishops, where marriage is concerned, is to encourage the thousands of married couples, young and old, who are faithfully living the vocation of marriage, in what can sometimes be a very difficult environment (economically, culturally and spiritually).

Alongside this there is a particular concern to offer pastoral and spiritual support to couples who are facing particular challenges.  This is what the Church is doing on a daily basis, in its pastoral ministry.  Thank you for listening.


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