Winter 2015 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference concludes in Maynooth

02 Dec 2015


The Winter 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:

    •  Bishops to open “Holy Doors” in dioceses for the Jubilee Year of Mercy
    • Equal protection for the right to life of mothers and unborn children
    • 2015 Synod on the Family and the 2018 World Meeting of Families in Dublin
    • Laudato Si and the UN Climate Change Conference COP21
    • Conference celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas
  • Bishops to open “Holy Doors” in dioceses for the Jubilee Year of Mercy

Mercy is part of the season of Advent.  Bishops welcomed the Jubilee Year of Mercy which will begin on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (8 December) and run until the Solemnity of Christ the King (20 November 2016).  Jubilee refers to a special year of remission of sins and pardon.  During his presentation of the Jubilee Year, Pope Francis invited the faithful to realise the mercy of God as central to their lives.  Following the example of Pope Francis, bishops will open “Holy Doors” in every diocese.  Bishops encouraged the faithful to take part in local ceremonies, to undertake pilgrimage, avail of resources on, and to pray the Year of Mercy prayer from the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization:

Prayer for the Jubilee of Mercy

Lord Jesus Christ,
you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father,
and have told us that whoever sees you sees Him.
Show us your face and we will be saved.
Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money;
the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things;
made Peter weep after his betrayal,
and assured Paradise to the repentant thief.
Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman:
“If you knew the gift of God!”

You are the visible face of the invisible Father,
of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy:
let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified.
You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness
in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error:
let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.

Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing,
so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord,
and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor,
proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed,
and restore sight to the blind.

We ask this of you, Lord Jesus, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of
Mercy; you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and


      • Equal protection for the right to life of mothers and unborn children

The Bishops’ Conference expressed strong support for the statement of 30 November, from the bishops of Northern Ireland, regarding Monday’s decision of the High Court in Belfast to extend the law on abortion.

As a society our progress should be measured against how effectively we care for the most vulnerable amongst us.  If an unborn child suffers from a life-limiting condition, or is conceived as a result of a sexual crime for which s/he bears no responsibility, it would be inhumane to withdraw the protection of our basic law, the Constitution, to their right to life.  As Irish society enters the most significant of centenary years it is more pressing than ever ‘to cherish all the children of the nation equally’ whether unborn or born, and irrespective of a child’s health status.

Human life is sacred.  Life at all stages deserves the utmost protection, compassion and care.  The Church teaches that the duty to care for, and to protect, human life extends equally to a mother and her unborn child.  Therefore any attempt to repeal the eighth amendment to theConstitution of Ireland, which in Article 40.3.3 states:

‘The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right’,

is a direct attack on the most fundamental of all human rights – the right to life.

Bishops discussed with CURA, the Catholic Church’s crisis pregnancy support service, how it can continue to best support women experiencing crisis pregnancies now and in the future.

      • 2015 Synod on the Family and the 2018 World Meeting of Families in Dublin

Last October Archbishop Eamon Martin and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin attended the Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome.  The theme of the Synod was ‘The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World’.   At the Synod Archbishop Diarmuid Martin was elected as Rapporteur of the second of four English-speaking groups and Archbishop Eamon Martin was elected as Moderator of the third of the four English-speaking groups.

The archbishops briefed the Bishops’ Conference on the Synod meeting.  An important fruit of the Synod was the conviction that it is primarily families who minister to other families, married couples who minister to other married couples.  In this way the family itself becomes the place of family ministry and new evangelisation.  The importance of prayer in families was emphasised.  Bishops reflected upon the concluding remarks of Pope Francis at the Synod:

“Certainly, the Synod was not about settling all the issues having to do with the family, but rather attempting to see them in the light of the Gospel and the Church’s tradition and two-thousand-year history, bringing the joy of hope without falling into a facile repetition of what is obvious or has already been said.  It was about urging everyone to appreciate the importance of the institution of the family and of marriage between a man and a woman, based on unity and indissolubility, and valuing it as the fundamental basis of society and human life.  It was about listening to and making heard the voices of the families and the Church’s pastors, who came to Rome bearing on their shoulders the burdens and the hopes, the riches and the challenges of families throughout the world.”

It is hoped that the Synod on the Family will encourage a renewed energy for caring for marriage and the family.  To support this focus, the Church in Ireland is now preparing for the 9th World Meeting of Families which will take place in Dublin in 2018.  Archbishop Diarmuid Martin attended the 8th World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September, and briefed the bishops on the event.  Held every three years, and coordinated by the Pontifical Council for the Family, the World Meeting of Families is the largest gathering of Catholic families and it celebrates family life and the Church’s commitment to support families.

      • Laudato Si and the UN Climate Change Conference COP21

Archbishop Eamon Martin briefed bishops on the recent meeting which he hosted with the environment ministers from both jurisdictions, Minister Alan Kelly and Minister Mark H Durkan.  The Armagh meeting of 18 November was held in the context of Laudato Si (Praise Be to You), the Encyclical Letter published by Pope Francis in June on care for our common home.  The meeting was also held before the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP21 which is taking place at the moment in Paris.  Archbishop Martin welcomed the cross-border dialogue and collaboration on this subject as an important example of leadership on one of the urgent global justice issues of our time.  Archbishop Martin reiterated the appeal of Pope Francis for a strong international commitment to the care of the earth in solidarity with the poorest and most vulnerable populations of the world.  He advised bishops that, with the support of the ministers, a conference on care for the environment is being planned for 2016.

Pope Francis has reminded us that COP21 is of immense importance to the future of our planet and our species.  Speaking last week in Nairobi, during his visit to Africa, the Pope said:

“I express my hope that COP21 will achieve a global and ‘transformational’ agreement based on the principles of solidarity, justice, equality and participation; an agreement which targets three complex and interdependent goals: lessening the impact of climate change, fighting poverty and ensuring respect for human dignity.”

Bishops reflected on the creation of the earth for the benefit of everyone: “Creation is of the order of love.  God’s love is the fundamental moving force in all created things” (LS n. 77).  All of us are caretakers of the Earth yet we must recognise past failings resulting in the resources of the earth not being used for the equal benefit of all.  Our Christian duty is to examine our own lives and embrace an ecological conversion to preserve our planet so that future generations can enjoy living in a healthy and sustainable environment.

Bishops discussed the importance of the COP21 negotiations securing a global deal to limit greenhouse gas emission reductions.  The impact of global warming on climate change has a profound effect on the most vulnerable of our global population, and results in hunger and displacement.  An increasing number of weather-related disasters inflict damage on the fragile eco-systems supporting land based subsistence farming communities.  Throughout the developing world, people are going hungry because crops no longer grow where they once did.  People are being displaced by storms, floods and drought.  Pope Francis has called for the necessary steps to be taken to address these failings.

Trócaire, the overseas development agency of the Catholic Church, has developed a number of resources on the issue of climate justice including Glas, a resource to supplement The Cry of the Earth pastoral reflection published by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.  Bishops offered prayers of support for leaders to answer this call and deliver an agreement that can secure the future of God’s earth.

      • Conference celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas

Bishops congratulated the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas (ICPO) on its 30th anniversary which was marked with a conference yesterday in Dublin Castle, and which was addressed by President Michael D Higgins, Uachtarán na hÉireann, and by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Mr Charles Flanagan TD.  The conference explored the practical, policy and pastoral issues which apply to this uniquely vulnerable category of Irish emigrant.  Bishops expressed their appreciation to Bishop John Kirby, chair of the ICPO, to current and former ICPO staff members and volunteers who over the years have made an enormous positive contribution to the lives of Irish people who find themselves in prison overseas.  The ICPO currently works with approximately 1,200 Irish people imprisoned in more than thirty countries, and with their families.  Part of the ICPO’s work involves supporting returning ex-prisoners in their resettlement in Ireland and bishops welcomed new research A Step At A Time, published yesterday, which is now available on and