ICBC General Meetings, News archive 2015

Final statement of the Spring 2015 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference

The Spring 2015 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference concluded this evening in Columba Centre, Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth. The following issues were discussed by the bishops during their meeting:

  • ‘Marriage is important – reflect before you change it’
  • ‘24 hours for the Lord’ on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 March
  • Synod of Bishops in Rome in October
  • Lent and preparation for Holy Week and Easter
  • Trocaire’s campaign for Lent 2015 on climate change
  • The Solemnity of Saint Patrick
  • National Board for Safeguarding Children
  • Supporting persecuted Christians in the Holy Land
  • Supporting blood and organ donation
  • Alcohol sponsorship of sports, and plain cigarette packaging
  • ‘Marriage is important – reflect before you change it’

Bishops discussed the fundamental importance of marriage for children, mothers and fathers, and society.  Ahead of the referendum on 22 May bishops stated that all of us need to reflect deeply on the very serious implications arising from the proposed redefinition of marriage.  In particular bishops noted the profound implications which this constitutional amendment would have on the family environment and on our understanding of parenthood now and for future generations.

Yesterday, during the second day of the Spring General Meeting, the President of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Eamon Martin, and Vice-President, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, published a statement on behalf of the bishops of Ireland Marriage is important – reflect before you change it at a press conference in Maynooth.  The bishops’ statement is being circulated by dioceses to parishes ahead of Masses this weekend.

  • ‘24 hours for the Lord’ on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 March

The Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation is inviting dioceses and parishes across the world to take part in the ‘24 hours for the Lord’ initiative for 2015.  The initiative was received with great enthusiasm when it was introduced in 2014 and it will be celebrated once again in 2015 on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 March. The theme which will guide the reflection for this year is God rich in mercy (Eph 2:4).

As Catholics are encouraged to avail of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) during Lent, special opportunities will be available in dioceses for prayer and confession.  Pope Francis himself will be participating in the initiative and will preside at a penitential service in Saint Peter’s Basilica in order to place the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the centre of the Church’s mission of the new evangelisation.  Irish dioceses are offering people the opportunity to take part in ‘24 hours for the Lord’; full details are available on catholicbishops.ie and on Twitter @CatholicBishops and #24hoursfortheLord.

  • Synod of Bishops in Rome in October

Archbishop Eamon Martin, and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, will represent the Bishops’ Conference at the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which will take place in Rome from 4 to 25 October.  The theme of the 2015 Synod is: “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World.”

Bishops discussed the challenges which can face families arising from poverty, unemployment, marginalisation, emigration, separation and violence.  Bishops reflected on a key theme from last October’s Synod which called for a radical renewal of the Church’s pastoral support for marriage and the family, and that marriage preparation should be understood as a life-long catechesis – or itinerary of faith – about the Sacrament of Marriage.  Last October’s meeting emphasised that marriage preparation, and the accompaniment of marriage, belongs within the work of parishes and the day-to-day life of evangalisation.

At diocesan level planning for the 2015 Synod is underway.  Following last October’s Synod a document was published summarising its work called the Relatio Synodi.  46 questions were also devised and added to the document, and the entire document is called the Lineamenta.  Bishops are currently engaged in a period of reflection and discernment with parishes inviting them, along with individuals and organisations, to respond to the Lineamenta questions which in turn will help shape the work of the 2015 Synod.

  • Lent and preparation for Holy Week and Easter

Lent began on Ash Wednesday 18 February.  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 for the grace of a new springtime of holiness and apostolic zeal for the Church in Ireland in line with the challenges presented by Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation of 2013 Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel).

  • Trócaire’s campaign for Lent 2015 on climate change

Bishops acknowledged the generosity of the people of Ireland, priests and religious in supporting Trócaire’s work throughout the year and especially through the annual Lenten campaign.  Bishops encouraged parishioners to support the 2015 campaign.

Today one in twelve people across the world is at risk of hunger.  Trócaire’s Lenten campaign focuses on a young Ethiopian girl called Mahlet, whose family is reliant on its small patch of farmland for survival.  Some years back the area they live in was green, but today it is dry and dusty. Mahlet and her family are the human faces of the global climate change crisis.  This 2015 Lenten campaign highlights the growing problem of decreasing rainfall in rural communities overseas as a result of climate change which is now a dominant cause of poverty in many communities where Trócaire works.

Last year 3.4 million people directly benefited from Trócaire’s programmes, and from the ongoing and generous support of people in Ireland.  This year, Trócaire is hoping to increase on that figure.  In relation to rural communities impacted by climate change, Trócaire is working to help them:

  • diversify their crops
  • find alternative water supplies
  • manage their land more sustainably and
  • become better prepared for the inevitable flooding and lack of rainfall that is ever-increasing.
  • The Solemnity of Saint Patrick

As we approach 17 March on Tuesday next, bishops prayed through the intercession of our patron saint, Saint Patrick, for the faith and well-being of the people of Ireland.  Patrick was called to serve and bring God to a people far from his homeland.  As Saint Patrick’s Day is a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics in Ireland the best way to remember our national patron is to attend Mass.  In 2015 we celebrate our national Saint’s day at a time when many families throughout our country are facing difficulties.  Bishops ask for prayers for families at this time.

Bishops encourage the faithful to pray for migrants, and to reflect upon the plight of Patrick – himself a migrant – especially as many people struggle to live and integrate into new cultures, at home and abroad, arising from displacement and poverty.

  • National Board for Safeguarding Children

The chairman, Mr John Morgan, and the chief executive, Ms Teresa Devlin, presented to the bishops on the current work of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland.  Included in the presentation was an update on the status of the revised Safeguarding Children – Standards and Guidance for the Catholic Church in Ireland; the National Vetting (Children & Vulnerable Persons) Bill 2015 and how this legislation may apply in a Church context; and, regarding compliance with data protection legislation.

  • Supporting persecuted Christians in the Holy Land

Bishops discussed the continuing humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq and invited the faithful to respond to the call of Pope Francis to offer prayer intentions for those who are being persecuted because of the faith that they profess.

The situation in Syria is one of the gravest humanitarian disasters since the Second World War and the suffering of the people is compounded on two fronts: the now five-year old civil conflict and the advancement of the Caliphate.  200,000 people have been killed, more than one million injured and eleven million people displaced.   In the last two weeks 220 people have been abducted by so-called Islamic State militants, most of them from Assyrian Christian villages in the north east of Syria.

Bishops recalled their meetings with Bishop Antoine Audo SJ, Bishop of Aleppo, during his visit to Ireland before Christmas who informed them of the brutality suffered by his people in Syria including being violently forced from their homes and kidnapping.  Bishops said that the most striking concern of Bishop Audo was the perceived indifference of western countries to the persecution of his people.

Bishops noted that Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, has written a letter to all bishops worldwide in view of the “Collecta pro Terra Sancta”, the collection for the communities of faithful and places in the Holy Land, which traditionally takes place on Good Friday.  Bishops ask that the faithful in Ireland respond generously to this collection which seeks to alleviate the plight facing Christians in the Holy Land.  The territories that will benefit from the collection, in different ways and to differing extents, are: Jerusalem, Palestine and Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Turkey, Iran and Iraq.

  • Supporting blood and organ donation

Bishops discussed the importance of blood and organ donation as a part of our giving within the Church.  As Christians, the bishops said, and especially in this season of Lent, such sacrifice mirrors God’s perfect gift to us in His Son who gave His life for our salvation.  Bishops prayed for all those who have given blood and organs down the years. Currently there are 800 people awaiting an organ transplant on the island of Ireland and every year nearly 100,000 transfusions take place.  National Organ Donation Week takes place from 28 March to 4 April.

  • Alcohol sponsorship of sports, and plain cigarette packaging

Alcohol and sports sponsorship

The promotion of alcohol is about profit.  The Irish Bishops’ Drugs Initiative* welcomes the proposed Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 but is disappointed that it does not include plans to phase-out advertising and marketing of sporting events by the drinks industry.  However feedback from the IBDI schools’ programmes clearly points to the high level of influence exerted on young people by the drinks industry through its advertising, marketing and sponsorship campaigns. Sponsorship of sporting events targets young people and promotes a culture which suggests that healthy living is synonymous with alcohol consumption.  The results can be devastating.  It encourages underage and binge drinking, leading to alcohol dependence later in life.  In the same way that the law now prevents advertising, marketing and sponsorship by tobacco companies, similarly the Bishops’ Conference endorses the call on Government, by the IBDI, to ban sports sponsorship by the drinks industry.  Government should instead assist through its relevant agencies in securing sponsors for sports organisations.

Plain packaging of tobacco products

Over one million people smoke cigarettes on the island of Ireland.  The signing into law yesterday, by President Higgins, of plain packaging for tobacco products is to be welcomed notwithstanding the pressure exerted by corporate lobbying or legal threats regarding this matter.  This important public health initiative should act as a deterrent, especially for teenagers, to prevent people from starting the highly addictive and damaging habit of smoking.

(*The Irish Bishops’ Drugs Initiative is a cross community support working in over 250 parishes involving over 1,000 volunteers, to assist parishes and communities to address the challenges of alcohol/drugs misuse.  IBDI operates in the north and south of Ireland).

ENDS

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

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