Winter General Meeting of Bishops concludes in Maynooth

07 Dec 2016



The Winter 2016 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference concluded today in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Issues that were discussed at the meeting included:

  • The Christmas Crib Prayer to the Holy Family and the launch of the official logo for the World Meeting of Families 2018
  • Submission to the Citizens’ Assembly on Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution of Ireland
  • Homelessness
  • Bishops congratulate Pope Francis on his 80th birthday and welcome his apostolic letter Misericordia et Misera (Mercy and Misery)
  • Persecution of Christians
  • Trócaire Christmas appeal
  • Advent 2016 – (i)  Sacrament of Reconciliation (ii) Digital Advent Calendar
  • Pope John Paul II Awards, young people and the Church
  • Ad Limina visit to the Holy See in January 2017
  • The Christmas Crib Prayer to the Holy Family and the launch of the official logo for the World Meeting of Families 2018

On 22 October, formal preparations began for the 9th World Meeting of Families 2018 and these are being led by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin as President and host, and by Father Timothy Bartlett in his role as Secretary General.  Last May, Pope Francis chose “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World” as the theme for this major pastoral celebration which will take place in Dublin from 22 to 26 August 2018.  At their meeting, bishops encouraged the faithful to pray the Prayer to the Holy Family which has been written by Pope Francis and which he published in this year’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love):

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, 
in you we contemplate 
the splendor of true love; 
to you we turn with trust. 

Holy Family of Nazareth, 
grant that our families too 
may be places of communion and prayer, 
authentic schools of the Gospel 
and small domestic churches. 

Holy Family of Nazareth, 
may families never again experience 
violence, rejection and division; 
may all who have been hurt or scandalized 
find ready comfort and healing. 

Holy Family of Nazareth, 
make us once more mindful 
of the sacredness and inviolability of the family, 
and its beauty in God’s plan. 

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, 
graciously hear our prayer. 


600,000 copies of Pope Francis’ Prayer to the Holy Family are being made available to parishes across Ireland so that families can take a copy home after Christmas Mass from their church’s crib.  The prayer is available in eleven languages: English, Irish, Polish, French, German, Italian, Russian, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese and in Arabic and the Catholic Church across the world is being asked to place the Prayer to the Holy Family near parish cribs at the Christmas Vigil Mass on Christmas Eve, and also throughout the Christmas season.

Bishops also launched the official logo for the World Meeting of Families 2018:


The explanation of the logo’s meaning and design are detailed at the end of this statement.  Multimedia formats of the logo explanation are available on 

Click here for audio explanation.

  • Submission to the Citizens’ Assembly on Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution of Ireland

In the context of the invitation for submissions by the Citizens’ Assembly regarding Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution of Ireland, bishops have consulted carefully with members of the lay faithful, both women and men.  The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference is currently finalising the text of its submission which will be published over the coming days.

  • Homelessness

Bishops expressed their concern at the rise in homelessness across our country.  According to the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, there are almost 90,000 households waiting for social housing in the Republic of Ireland – and over 2,000 children living in homeless accommodation in Dublin.  The latest official count by the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive has found 142 rough sleepers on the streets of the capital, an increase of 56% over the past year. 

Many dioceses have undertaken special initiatives for the homeless and people in need this Christmas.  Since December 2014, the Archdiocese of Dublin has provided accommodation for 30 homeless people, operated by Crosscare.  The Archdiocese is currently in negotiations with Dublin City Council and the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive with a view to providing two other premises for emergency accommodation. 

The social teaching of the Catholic Church informs us that each person, regardless of his or her economic or social position, racial or faith background, must be treated with full dignity.  Sadly this Christmas there are tens of thousands of people living in our parishes who are in crisis, struggling with rents; with no food in the cupboard; no heating in their home and in need of fuel and basic clothing.  Such families are living in cramped conditions in hotels and bed-and-breakfasts, or desperately trying to hold onto their tenancies in the private rented sector.  Bishops strongly commended the work and generosity offered by the thousands of volunteers who are working to alleviate the suffering and indignity faced by these families.

Especially in this season of Advent as we prepare for Christmas, bishops ask the faithful to pray to the Holy Family – who were themselves homeless – for the intentions of those are homeless.  Bishops ask all people of goodwill to support, in every that they can, homeless agencies in their work towards building a society where homelessness, and poor housing, which are an affront to human dignity, are eradicated forever.

  • Bishops congratulate Pope Francis on his 80th birthday and welcome his apostolic letter Misericordia et Misera (Mercy and Misery).

Bishops offered their prayerful good wishes and congratulations to the Holy Father Pope Francis who will celebrate his 80th birthday on 17 December 2016.

At Mass on 27 November, the first Sunday of Advent, Pope Francis concluded the Holy Year of Mercy with a request that people around the world might leave “the doors of reconciliation and pardon” open in order to give hope and opportunities to others.  Pope Francis said, “Let us ask for the grace … of knowing how to go beyond evil and differences, opening every possible pathway of hope.  As God believes in us, infinitely beyond any merits we have, so too we are called to instil hope and provide opportunities to others.”  At the end of the Mass, Pope Francis signed a new apostolic letter titled Misericordia et Misera (Mercy and Misery) which is addressed to the universal Church so we may “continue to live mercy with the same intensity experienced during the whole extraordinary Jubilee.”  Pope Francis expressed his hope that the fourteen corporal and spiritual works of mercy, on which we have meditated throughout the Holy Year, may continue to guide us on the path of God’s mercy.  Bishops welcomed the publication of the Pope’s new apostolic letter which is available now in the Veritas stores and online at

  • Persecution of Christians

The 27th Irish Inter–Church Meeting (IICM) took place over the 24 and 25 November at Mount Saint Anne’s Retreat Centre, Portarlington Co Laois.  The IICM is the formal meeting between the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Irish Council of Churches and the meeting provides a space for Christian churches in Ireland to come together in prayer and to reflect on issues of shared concern and to strengthen relationships.  Foremost in the discussions at the meeting was the plight of the ongoing persecution of Christians in the Middle East, whose very existence is under threat.  Delegates heard reports and experiences which demonstrated the sheer scale of the suffering and the urgent need for a response from the international community, while recognising that the complexity of the problems do not lend themselves to obvious, externally-imposed solutions.

Bishops expressed their solidarity and support for Christians, and to all who suffer and have been displaced due to violence in the region.  Bishops said that to respect the dignity of the human person, all people of faith and goodwill need to be strong advocates for the protection of vulnerable minorities.  Bishops endorsed the final communiqué of the IICM which stated,

“Lasting peace and security for the region can only be achieved in the context of a renewed international commitment to solidarity, human rights and respect for diversity.  As churches, we can play our part by keeping this issue on the agenda of our political leaders and ensuring that the victims of persecution are not forgotten, by making donations in support of the urgent humanitarian needs and by working to ensure that our society models the inclusive approach to minorities we would wish to see in the Middle East and throughout the world.”

  • Trócaire Christmas Appeal

Trócaire’s Christmas Appeal this year highlights the plight of refugees and those displaced by conflict.  Over 60 million people around the world have had to flee their homes due to fears for their safety.  Bishops continue to be deeply concerned for the well-being of Syrian people who have suffered almost six years of brutal war.  Many other countries – from South Sudan to Myanmar – continue to be blighted by displacement as innocent families are caught in the crossfire of conflict.  Bishops urge support for Trócaire’s Christmas Appeal to help the organisation’s life-saving work around the world.  See

  • Advent 2016 – (i)  Sacrament of Reconciliation (ii) Digital Advent Calendar

The call to renewal of our Christian life is a central part of our preparation for the season of Christmas. Our celebration of Advent should be an integral part of our preparation for the Feast of the birth of Our Saviour.  In the Sacrament of Reconciliation (or Penance), we receive the gift of God’s mercy and forgiveness.  Bishops strongly encouraged all Catholics to make time to avail of the gift of God’s love in the Sacrament of Reconciliation during the season of Advent. 

Bishops invite the faithful to avail of the online Advent 2016 Calendar on  This digital calendar is designed for young and old and can help us draw nearer to Christ by taking a few minutes each day in Advent – on a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop – to open a digital door so that we can reflect on personalised audio and prayer resources as part of our spiritual preparation for Christmas.

  • Pope John Paul II Awards, young people and the Church

Bishops paid tribute to local youth leaders and coordinators of the Pope John Paul II Award, which was created to commemorate the ministry of Saint Pope John Paul II.   The award celebrates young people who take an active part in the life of their parish, in the life of their community and in society.  Over 20,000 young people in twenty-one dioceses throughout Ireland and the UK have successfully completed the John Paul II Award.  The award enables participants to become more aware of the teaching and role of the Catholic Church in the world and to engage at a deep level with Christ.  For more information about the award, see

Bishops reflected on the positive feedback from parishes and young people concerning their pastoral experience of World Youth Day during August in Krakow, Poland.  More than 1,600 Irish pilgrims attended this year’s celebration which concluded with Pope Francis presiding at the final Mass.  Bishops welcomed the recent publication by the Dicastery for Laity, the Family, and Life, of the themes for the next three World Youth Days.   Each year World Youth Day is celebrated on Palm Sunday locally at a diocesan level, and the following themes have been chosen by Pope Francis for the three-year World Youth Day journey culminating in the international celebration in Panama in 2019.  The Blessed Virgin Mary is at the heart of these annual themes which are taken from the Gospel of Saint Luke:

  • 32ndWorld Youth Day, 2017: “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His Name” (Lk 1:49)
  • 33rdWorld Youth Day, 2018: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God” (Lk 1:30)
  • 34thWorld Youth Day, 2019: “I am the servant of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38)
  • Ad Limina visit to the Holy See in January 2017

Members of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference will travel to Rome from 15 to 25 January 2017 for their Ad Limina visit to the Holy See.  The bishops’ pilgrimage will include an audience with Pope Francis, meetings with senior members of the Roman Curia and visits to a number of holy sites.  The bishops’ pilgrimage is historically known as the Ad limina Apostolorum visit – or “to the threshold of the Apostles” – a reference to the pilgrimage to the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul that all bishops are required to make (see canon 400, The Code of Canon Law).   All bishops charged with the leadership of a diocese are required to make an Ad Limina pilgrimage and this normally takes place every five years.  The last Ad Limina visit by the Irish bishops was in 2006.

Notes for Editors

  • During the Winter General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, bishops launched the official logo for the World Meeting of Families 2018.  The logo and the explanation of its meaning and design are detailed below:


At the heart of the logo

At the heart of the logo is the family. Family members are represented in different ages and roles while walking together in communion and love, helping one another through the journey of life. The cross and the semi-circle represent God’s love, flowing from the cross, embracing and supporting all the families of the world.  No one is excluded, no one is left behind. Couples, elderly, single, widowed, consecrated, clergy, children, all are important members of our families and all are invited to participate in WMOF2018.


An international and ecological event

The map of the world shows that families from all around the globe will come to Ireland for what will be a truly international event. While we see only a glimpse of the continents, they represent the whole world: the common home of all families, entrusted to us by God. In his encyclical letter, Laudato Si’, Pope Francis reminds us that families have a vital role to play in caring for our common home. He reminds us that Saint Francis of Assisi described our earth itself as “like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us”. (Cf. Pope Francis, Laudato Si’: On Care for our Common Home, n.1). The World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Ireland will explore how families, as our first home, can help us to care for our common home.

The Church, the Family of Families

The red semicircle with the cross on the top echoes logo of the Archdiocese of Dublin, which is the host diocese for WMOF2018. As well as representing God’s love, flowing from the cross, embracing all the families of the world, the semicircle and cross also represent the ‘dome’ of the Church, “a family of families, constantly enriched by the lives of all those domestic churches” (Pope Francis, The Joy of Love, n. 87). In the logo, as in real life, the Church embraces the family, protects the family and supports the family. When our families are stronger, society is stronger, and the Church is stronger.

The Cross

The Cross is the ultimate symbol of the self-sacrificing love of Jesus. Self-sacrificing love is at the very heart of marriage and family life. The rays represent the grace of the Holy Spirit, flowing from the cross and uniting our families in love. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus dwells within our families and gives us the strength to take up our own crosses and follow him. The cross used the logo is also a symbol of Ireland’s Christian roots and history. Known by many as the “Papal Cross”, it stands in the Phoenix Park in Dublin, one of the largest walled city parks in Europe, where, in 1979, over one million Catholics gathered for another major occasion: to welcome, listen and pray with Saint John Paul II, who was also the founder of World Meeting of Families. Christ is the one that gathers us and calls us to come together again in WMOF2018 in Dublin.

The Holy Trinity

In The Joy of Love, Pope Francis speaks several times of marriage and the family as the “living icon” of the Most Holy Trinity (cf. ns. 11, 121, 161, 314, 324). As the family, through marriage, comes together in mutual self-giving, communion and love, it reflects the mystery of the Holy Trinity and immerses itself in “the mystery from which all true love flows” (n. 63).  The tri-spiral swirl in the logo draws from ancient Celtic imagery, to reflect this truth. These triple spirals are found on ancient stones and monuments around Ireland. As Christianity came to Ireland, the tri-spiral, or triskele, began to be used as a symbol of the Holy Trinity, together with the well-known shamrock, associated with St Patrick. St. Patrick, tradition has it, used the shamrock to explain the mystery of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit united, as one family: one God and three Divine Persons, in a perfect communion of love.

Location and Date

The logo includes the date and location chosen by Pope Francis to host the next World Meeting of Families: Dublin, Ireland August 22-26 2018. It is a great joy and responsibility for us in Ireland to host this event and the logo includes a direct invitation to families and individuals from all over the world to come and join us for the event.

Design and Usage

The logo for the World Meeting of Families 2018 was designed by Ronan Lynch, of Lynch Design, Ireland, with the support of Aid to the Church in Need (Ireland). For the Terms and Conditions that must be followed for using the logo, please contact [email protected].  Dioceses, Parishes and Church organisations can use the logo, for non-commercial purposes only. Details can be found at