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Statement of the Summer 2018 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference

The Summer 2018 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference concluded this evening in the Columba Centre, Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth.  Please see below issues discussed by the bishops at their meeting:

  • World Meeting of Families in Ireland, 21 to 26 August 2018
  • Announcement of the establishment of a new Council for Life
  • Cura crisis pregnancy agency
  • Trócaire overseas development agency
  • Synod of Bishops in Rome on youth, faith and vocational discernment
  • Proposal by the Government to hold a referendum to remove blasphemy from theConstitution of Ireland
  • Prayerful solidarity with the Catholic Church in Korea
  • Bishops’ Conference membership
  • In Memoriam: Bishop Christopher Jones RIP

 

The ninth World Meeting of Families will take place in Ireland from 21 to 26 August with the theme, ‘Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World’.  The Church in Ireland is honoured that the Holy Father Pope Francis will be attending WMOF2018.  All are welcome to participate in this global celebration of faith and family and opportunities to do so are available at a local diocesan level and by attending Pope Francis’ praying of the Angelus in Knock or by attending the celebration of Mass in the Phoenix Park, in Dublin, on Sunday 26 August 

The President and the Vice-President of the Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Eamon Martin and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, hosted a press conference in Maynooth (see https://www.facebook.com/wmof2018/videos/1032557733559619/) on the first day of the bishops’ meeting to welcome the publication of both the itinerary of Pope Francis for his pastoral visit to the World Meeting of Families in Ireland, and the programme of its Pastoral Congress (seehttps://www.catholicbishops.ie/2018/06/11/publication-of-the-programme-for-the-pastoral-congress-and-papal-schedule-for-the-9th-world-meeting-of-families/).

Bishops offered prayers for the success of WMOF and that, with God’s help, this very special pastoral initiative will present all of us in the Church with the opportunity, and the challenge, to renew, support and strengthen Irish families in their commitment to their faith. 

National Collection for WMOF 2018

WMOF 2018 involves the participation of all 26 dioceses on the island and it will mark a very important milestone for Catholicism in Ireland.  While appreciating the financial demands currently facing families, bishops ask the faithful to contribute generously to the fourth national collection at Masses this weekend, 16 and 17 June, in support of WMOF.

  • Announcement of the establishment of a new Council for Life

In praying for Ireland at this time, bishops remembered mothers, fathers and their unborn children, and especially mothers who are experiencing crisis pregnancies.  Bishops said:

‘With the repeal of the Eighth Amendment a new situation now exists in Ireland.  It is essential for us as a Church which cares passionately about the gift of life, and wants to support both mothers and their unborn children, to seek better ways of responding to this new and very challenging reality.  We intend to establish, by March 2019, a new Council for Life whose role will be to advise and advocate for the Catholic Church in Ireland on a consistent ethic of life and care for those most at risk.  In preparation for the establishment of this Council, bishops will consult with those already committed to, and engaged with, upholding the sanctity of life in Ireland.

‘We wish to acknowledge and pay tribute to all those who campaigned and voted to protect the lives of both mothers and their unborn children in the recent referendum.  We appreciate that this is not an easy position to hold in our contemporary culture.  We are seriously concerned that making abortion so freely available will desensitise people to the value of innocent human life and will result in more abortions in Ireland.

‘During the referendum debate we heard many stories of immense pain and distress experienced by women who found themselves in a crisis pregnancy.  Their stories touched us all.  Often they felt overwhelmed and very alone.  In the aftermath of the referendum it is clear that we all need to foster a culture of care, a society of support, so that when a woman finds herself in a crisis pregnancy she may find practical assistance and care.

‘The word “compassion” was regularly used in debates leading up to referendum day.  We feel that it is important to recognise that those who worked for the retention of the protection of the right to life of the unborn in our Constitution did so out of a spirit of compassion for both the pregnant mother and her unborn child.  True compassion is at the heart of the Christian Gospel and it continues to motivate us.  It values and protects every human life from conception to natural death. 

‘For healthcare professionals, the right of conscientious objection must be respected.  It would be a great injustice to require doctors and nurses to participate, even by referral, in the provision of services which would be a serious violation of their conscience.  This would only be “a way of pretending to respect freedom of conscience while actually requiring one person to cooperate in what he or she sincerely believes is the wrong-doing of another.  Such a presumption is at variance with the right to conscientious objection” (cf. Code of Ethical Standards for Healthcare, Dublin: Veritas, 2018, 8.19).

‘We encourage politicians who courageously defended the right to life of the unborn child before the referendum to continue to do so as a matter of principle.’

  • Cura crisis pregnancy agency

The Bishops’ Conference has been formally advised by the national executive council of Cura of its decision to wind down and close its services.

Bishops acknowledged with deep gratitude the valuable contribution that Cura has made over the years in its support of expectant mothers, fathers and their babies.  Since its establishment in 1977, Cura staff and volunteers have undertaken important work through its national help-line, counselling and information services, to assist women facing crisis pregnancies in an oftentimes judgemental and unforgiving social environment.

Since 1996, when aggregated records were introduced, over the 21-year period up to 2017, Cura managed 163,400 face-to-face and telephone counselling sessions with clients.

Bishops praised the pro-life contribution of Cura staff, volunteers and clients over its 41 years of operation.  Bishops shared the regret of Cura’s national executive council that Cura has been compelled to close due to the decrease in demand for its services and the accreditation requirements associated with the new regulatory environment for counselling.

  • Trócaire overseas development agency

Support for Trócaire

Bishops expressed their deep gratitude to parishioners, priests and religious across the country for their continued support for Trócaire, the overseas development agency of the Bishops’ Conference.  Last year saw €29.1m donated to Trócaire by the Irish public.  These donations enabled Trócaire to bring support and relief to 2.8 million people throughout the developing world.  This expression of faith and solidary continues to change the lives of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.

South Sudan and Gaza

Bishops remain deeply troubled by the humanitarian crises facing people in various parts of the world.   Bishops offered prayers for the people of South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, which remains deeply scarred by conflict.  The high levels of violence being perpetrated against women and children are particularly shocking and unacceptable.  Over 4.2 million people have been displaced from their homes by conflict in the country, while over 1.1 million children under the age of five are acutely malnourished.  Through Trócaire, the Catholic Church in Ireland is responding to their needs and we will continue to do so.

Bishops also expressed deep concern regarding recent events in Gaza.  People throughout the Holy Land deserve to live in peace and dignity.  The people of Gaza seek a better life for themselves and their children but the conditions under which they live are unacceptable and unsustainable.  Recent cuts to the budget of the UN agency responsible for the care of Palestinian refugees is not helpful and indeed will only makes matters worse.

Bishops said that the international community must find a way to ease the plight of the people of Gaza as a matter of urgency, and that they will continue to support efforts to ensure peace, justice and dignity for all people of the region. 

  • Synod of Bishops in Rome on youth, faith and vocational discernment

From 3 to 28 October Pope Francis will host a Synod of Bishops in Rome on the theme: ‘Youth, faith and vocational discernment’.  The Synod is an assembly of bishops from around the world, gathered with the Holy Father, to share their wisdom, information and experiences in the common pursuit of pastoral solutions which have a universal validity and application.  Taking place every two years, this will be the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.  The President of the Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, and Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry, chair of the Council for Pastoral Renewal and Adult Faith Development, will represent the Irish bishops at this Synod.

During their meeting, bishops discussed preparations for the Synod noting that this is an important time for youth ministry in Ireland.  Bishops met with representatives of youth ministry from around the country to discuss key themes arising from a web-based consultation with young people, involving 2,500 respondents, and which was undertaken in preparation for the forthcoming meeting of the Synod of Bishops.  The discussion highlighted positive examples and obstacles facing young people, such as:

–          young people face many challenges including peer pressure, mental health issues and from social media;

–          young people are passionate about justice, equality and fairness, and desire to be listened to even when their opinions are not in line with Church teaching;

–          many young people want to learn, experience and have a greater role in their faith, but sometimes struggle in achieving this; and

–          the positive experiences of chaplaincy services, pilgrimages and other dedicated national and international youth encounter events.

Bishops agreed that a group of young adults, representing many aspects of youth culture, would meet with bishops during the World Meeting of Families in August to develop further discussion on these issues.

  • Proposal by the Government to hold a referendum to remove blasphemy from theConstitution of Ireland

Regarding yesterday’s decision by the Government to hold a referendum in October to remove blasphemy from the Constitution of Ireland, bishops reflected on the November 2013 submission of the Irish Council of Churches and the Irish Inter-Church Meeting to the Convention on the Constitution which considered this issue. 

Bishops reaffirmed their position that the current reference to blasphemy in the Constitution, under article 40.6.1.i, is largely obsolete, and may give rise to concern because of the way such measures have been used to justify violence and oppression against minorities in other parts of the world.  Bishops reiterated that the promotion of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience for all in society greatly enriches the social fabric of a country, and is one aspect of respect for the dignity of human persons.  The human right of faith communities to contribute to public life, including public debate on issues that are of importance to everyone, without being subjected to attack or ridicule, needs to be acknowledged and respected.

Bishops stressed that it is vital to ensure that the rights of individuals and communities to practice and live out their faith openly are protected by law.  In this context bishops, once again, expressed their solidarity with all those, throughout the world, who are experiencing persecution, and human rights abuses, because of their faith or beliefs.  

  • Prayerful solidarity with the Catholic Church in Korea

Conscious of the contribution of the Irish Columban Fathers over the last century, to the growth of the Catholic Church in Korea, bishops offered their prayerful support to the Church in Korea which has launched a novena of prayer for peace from 17 – 25 June and is organising a conference on the theme of reconciliation in the Korean peninsula.

  • Bishops’ Conference membership

Bishops welcomed Bishop Dermot Farrell who, having been appointed by Pope Francis, was ordained Bishop of Ossory on 11 March in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Kilkenny.  Bishops also welcomed back to the conference Bishop Philip Boyce OCD, Bishop Emeritus of Raphoe, who was appointed by Pope Francis as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Dromore on 26 March following Bishop John McAreavey’s resignation.

  • In Memoriam: Bishop Christopher Jones RIP

Bishops prayed for the happy repose of the soul of the late Bishop Christopher Jones, Bishop Emeritus of Elphin, who passed into eternal life on 18 May last. 

ENDS                                                    

For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Katie Crosby 00353 (0) 86 862 3298

 

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