Statement of the Spring 2016 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference

09 Mar 2016

The Spring 2016 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference concluded this afternoon in Columba Centre, Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth.  The following issues were discussed by the bishops during their three-day meeting:

  • Prayers for (i) nuns who were murdered in Yemen (ii) Blessed Mother Teresa
  • Protection of unborn human life
  • General Election 2016
  • Centenary of the Easter Rising of 1916
  • Proposed NCCA curriculum ‘Education about Religions and Beliefs and Ethics’
  • Publication of the Irish Language Missal An Leabhar Aifrinn Rómhánach
  • World Meeting of Families in Ireland in 2018
  • Trócaire’s Lenten campaign 2016
  • Safeguarding Children
  • Saint Patrick’s Day
  • Good Friday collection to support the persecuted people and places of the Holy Land
  • Lent and preparation for Holy Week and Easter
  • Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Paul Tighe

Prayers for (i) nuns who were murdered in Yemen (ii) Blessed Mother Teresa
Bishops prayed for the repose of the souls of the four religious sisters – Anselm, Margherite, Reginette and Judith – who were members of the Missionaries of Charity, founded by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and who were brutally murdered in Aden, Yemen, on 4 March.

Bishops noted that Pope Francis will hold an ordinary public consistory of cardinals in the Vatican on 15 March, during which he will sign the decree for the canonisation of Blessed Teresa.  Bishops ask the faithful to pray to Blessed Teresa, and to remember the intentions of Pope Francis in their prayers.

Protection of unborn human life
Bishops affirmed the right to life of the unborn and discussed how society should seek to promote a culture of life.  Bishops acknowledged that respect for the sacredness of every human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death is critical to the right of all citizens to be treated equally and with dignity.  Bishops noted some recent calls to remove article 40.3.3 from the Constitution of Ireland through which 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 practical, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.  The Constitution embraces the right to life of unborn children, including those who may be seriously ill.  Bishops strongly oppose any weakening of the affirmation of the right to life of the unborn and emphasised that human life, at all stages, deserves the utmost protection, compassion and care.

General Election 2016
Bishops offered their congratulations to the elected members of the 32nd Dáil which reconvenes tomorrow after the recent General Election.  The results have delivered a challenging outcome for the members of the new Dáil as they seek to provide a new government which can offer stable civic leadership rooted in a shared social ethic, economic stability and sustainable growth for our society.  Bishops acknowledged the anxiety of many in Ireland at the fact that there is an uncertain social climate in the country regarding vital sectors of people’s lives, especially regarding protecting the unborn, health, homelessness, unemployment, education, security, our international responsibilities regarding climate change, and our helping to resolve the current refugee and migration crisis.  Bishops ask the faithful to pray for our politicians at this time.

Centenary of the Easter Rising of 1916
The centenary of the Easter Rising marks the watershed moment of our political history.  This pivotal anniversary provides an opportunity for us to deepen our understanding of who we are as a people and to affirm our hope for lasting peace and justice.  We will be able to reflect on where we are as a society and on what we want to achieve for the future.  People of faith will shape their understanding of this transformative event in the context of Christian values such as love of neighbour, respect for life, reconciliation, hope and healing.

On 3 April at 11:00am Archbishop Diarmuid Martin will participate in an inter-faith prayer service in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, commemorating all those who died in the events of Easter week 1916.  This service will focus on the Easter Rising (24 to 29 April 1916), and the executions that followed in May and August of that year.  The prayer service will take place alongside marble plinths bearing the names of those who died, including children, rebels, civilians, soldiers and policemen.  An Taoiseach will attend and leaders of several Christian Churches and the Jewish and Muslim faiths from all parts of the island, will participate.  There will be particular inputs from young people from each faith tradition.  Music from the ceremony will be from the Army Band and the event will be broadcast live on RTÉ One television.

Archbishop Eamon Martin will be principal celebrant and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin will preside and preach the homily at the Annual 1916 Mass of Remembrance in the Church of the Sacred Heart – the church of the Defence Forces – in Arbour Hill, Dublin on Sunday 24 April, exactly one hundred years since the day of the Rising in 1916.  President Michael D Higgins will attend the Mass as will members of the government and the judiciary as well as relatives of those executed following the Rising.  The Mass will be broadcast live by RTÉ from 10.00am.  Following the Mass an inter-faith prayer service will take place in Arbour Hill Cemetery.  The adjacent military cemetery is the resting place for fourteen of the executed leaders of the Rising including Pádraig Pearse, James Connolly and Major John McBride.

Bishops commended a new publication from Veritas which profiles the faith of the 1916 leaders.  The End of All Things Earthly is a series of essays, edited by David Bracken, diocesan archivist in the Diocese of Limerick, which gives a valuable insight into the personal stories of faith which accompanied the 1916 leaders.

Proposed NCCA curriculum ‘Education about Religions and Beliefs and Ethics’
Regarding the consultation paper of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and the proposal to develop a curriculum in ‘Education about Religions and Beliefs and Ethics’, bishops noted the ongoing consultative process taking place with Diocesan Advisors and Diocesan Education Secretaries and encouraged others involved in the life of Catholic schools such as principals, teachers and parents to also engage with the NCCA process by 31 March.  Bishops also noted that a discussion on the issue, to include Bishop Brendan Leahy, will be live-streamed on on 14 March at 8.00pm.

Publication of the Irish Language Missal An Leabhar Aifrinn Rómhánach
To coincide with Seachtain na Gaeilge (Irish language week), bishops wish to announce the publication later in the year by Veritas, Ireland’s leading publisher of liturgical and Church resources, of an altar edition of the new Roman Missal in Irish — An Leabhar Aifrinn Rómhánach.  This is a unique publication, and is hugely significant not only for the Church in Ireland, but for all who cherish our culture and heritage, particularly the Irish language.  An Leabhar Aifrinn Rómhánach will serve those who celebrate the liturgy in Irish and will help to preserve the Irish language as a living language for worship.  Bishops encouraged priests to purchase a copy for use in their parishes.

Foilsiú an Leabhair Aifrinn i nGaeilge An Leabhar Aifrinn Rómhánach
I gcomhthráth le Seachtain na Gaeilge, is mian le hEaspaig na hÉireann foilsiú an Leabhar Aifrinn i nGaeilge a fhógairt. Níos déanaí i mbliana foilseoidh Veritas, an foilsitheoir is mó in Éirinn do acmhainní liotúirgeacha eaglasta, eagrán nua altóra den Leabhar Aifrinn Rómhánach i nGaeilge – An Leabhar Aifrinn Rómhánach. Foilseachán ar leith é seo, agus tá sé thar a bheith suntasach, ní amháin don Eaglais in Éirinn, ach do gach duine a bhfuil meas acu ar chultúr, oidhreacht agus ar theanga na Gaeilge.  Cabhróidh An Leabhar Aifrinn Rómhánach leo siúd a bhfuil an Ghaeilge mar theanga labhartha acu, cleachtais chrábhaidh a dhéanamh i nGaeilge agus sa tslí sin an Ghaeilge a chothú mar theanga bheo adhartha amach anseo. Tugann na hEaspaig spreagadh do na sagairt den leabhar Aifrinn nua a cheannach agus é a úsáid sa pharóiste.

World Meeting of Families in Ireland in 2018
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin led discussions with bishops in preparation for the 9th World Meeting of Families which will take place primarily in Dublin, but also throughout Ireland, in 2018.  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.  In preparation for the World Meeting of Families, bishops decided to establish, in each diocese, a team of people to assist with local planning for this international event.

Trócaire’s Lenten campaign 2016
The theme for Trócaire’s 2016 Lenten campaign focuses on climate change and how people across Ireland are supporting communities in the developing world to tackle this injustice.  Bishops discussed the impact of global poverty on the most marginalised who struggle to access basic resources like land and water.

2016 is Trócaire’s 43rd annual Lenten campaign and it runs until Easter Sunday.  The campaign has involved the distribution of nearly one million Trócaire boxes (available from or by phoning 1850 408 408) to homes and schools on the island of Ireland.  For the first time the Trócaire box includes images of people of various backgrounds from Ireland reflecting the nationwide support which Trócaire receives in its work to alleviate the plight of the poor of the world.  Trócaire has reported an increase in donations for last year’s Lenten appeal.  The 2015 Lenten campaign raised almost €8.3m in public donations, almost a 4% increase on the 2014 figure of €8m.  In 2015 Trócaire helped 2.4 million people across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.  Donations to Trócaire during Lent sustain the work of the organisation each year in over twenty countries.

Emergencies and natural disasters are also happening more often as a result of climate change.  This year the ‘El Nino’ climate effect means eastern and southern Africa is facing its fifth major drought in seven years with up to 40 million people facing food shortages.  Where Trócaire works the vast majority of people live in rural communities and depend on agriculture for food and income to send their children to school.  Trócaire is reaching affected people with vital aid and long-term support, which includes diversifying crops and building irrigation schemes. Bishops thanked the lay faithful, clergy and religious of Ireland for their ongoing and generous support to Trócaire.

Safeguarding Children
Mr John Morgan and Ms Teresa Devlin, the Chair and CEO of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland, apprised bishops on the progress in their work of the revision in safeguarding standards.

Saint Patrick’s Day
As we approach 17 March, bishops prayed through the intercession of our national patron, 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 patron is to attend Mass.  Bishops at this time particularly 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.

Good Friday collection to support the persecuted people and places of the Holy Land
The roots of our Christian faith lie in the Holy Land and in this Jubilee Year of Mercy we are asked especially to demonstrate our solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Middle East.  Bishop John McAreavey gave an overview of his January visit as a member of the international Holy Land Coordination group, and explained how Christians living there rely heavily on the help of the universal Church.  Bishops encouraged the faithful to support the annual Good Friday collection which is taken up in every Catholic church to support the people and places of the Holy Land.  Bishops also encouraged pilgrims from Ireland to the Holy Land to join with Catholic communities for the celebration of Sunday Mass in their parishes in Jerusalem or in the West Bank.

Lent and preparation for Holy Week and Easter
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 the words of Pope Francis in the context of this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy:

“My intention has been to emphasise that we can all experience the grace of the Jubilee by putting into practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy: to live the works of mercy means to conjugate the verb ‘to love’ according to Jesus.  In this way then, all of us together can contribute concretely to the great mission of the Church: to communicate the love of God which is meant to be spread.”

Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Paul Tighe
Bishops offered their prayerful good wishes to Bishop Paul Tighe who was ordained as titular Bishop of Drivastrum by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome on 27 February.


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