Spring 2019 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference

13 Mar 2019

The Spring 2019 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:

  • Pope Francis’ meeting on ‘The Protection of Minors in the Church’
  • Consultant posts advertisement in Obstetrics/Gynaecology, and in Anaesthesia
  • Trócaire: Annual Lenten Lecture and 2019 Lenten campaign on land rights
  • Saint Patrick’s Day, 17 March
  • Lent and preparation for Holy Week and Easter
  • Vocations Sunday, 12 May: ‘The courage to take a risk for God’s promise’
  • Bishops pray for the ministry of the Holy Father Pope Francis
  • Appointments and award
  • Pope Francis’ meeting on ‘The Protection of Minors in the Church’

Bishops reflected on the meeting on ‘The Protection of Minors in the Church’ which took place from 21-24 February in the Vatican.  190 participants from around the world attended this high level meeting at which the Holy Father was present throughout.  These included 114 presidents of Bishops’ Conferences along with 22 Major Superiors of female and male Religious Congregations.  Archbishop Eamon Martin, as President of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, attended this meeting.

In his closing address to delegates, Pope Francis referenced both the work carried out in recent years by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, as well as current best international practice on safeguarding children, as important to inform new Vatican legislation on this issue.  The Holy Father said that new legislation would focus on eight areas: The protection of children; Impeccable seriousness; Genuine purification; Formation; Strengthening and reviewing guidelines by Episcopal Conferences; Accompaniment of those who have been abused; The digital world; and Sexual tourism.

Pope Francis concluded the February meeting stating, “I make a heartfelt appeal for an all-out battle against the abuse of minors both sexually and in other areas, on the part of all authorities and individuals, for we are dealing with abominable crimes that must be erased from the face of the earth: this is demanded by all the many victims hidden in families and in the various settings of our societies.” 

Mr John Morgan and Ms Teresa Devlin, the chair and CEO of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland updated bishops on the standards and guidance for safeguarding children which exist throughout the Church in Ireland.

  • Consultant posts advertisement in Obstetrics/Gynaecology, and in Anaesthesia

Bishops noted with regret the pre-conditions for applicants listed in the recent advertisement for a post of a Consultant in Obstetrics/Gynaecology and for a post of Consultant in Anaesthesia at the National Maternity Hospital on Holles Street in Dublin.

One of the main preconditions for all applicants is a requirement to carry out elective abortions if appointed.  Bishops consider that this precondition runs totally counter to a doctor’s constitutional and human right to freedom of conscience.

A doctor who is eminently qualified to work as a consultant in these fields is denied employment in these roles because of his/her conscience.  Doctors who are pro-life and who may have spent over a decade training in these areas and who may otherwise be the best candidate for these positions are now advised that, should they apply, they would not be eligible for consideration.  This totally undermines the whole concept of freedom of conscience which was guaranteed in the recent legislation.

The consequence for the entire training and recruitment of doctors to work in these positions in hospitals in Ireland is greatly undermined by these advertisements.

  • Trócaire: Annual Lenten lecture and 2019 Lenten campaign on land rights

Bishops prayed for the 157 passengers who died in the Ethiopian plane crash on 10 March and that the Lord may console their grieving families.  Amongst the deaths were humanitarian workers such as Mr Michéal Ryan, deputy chief engineer at the United Nations’ World Food Programme, and other staff from the Catholic Relief Service.  Bishops also prayed for the safety and wellbeing of the 300 Trócaire staff currently working here in Ireland and throughout the developing world in the service of Catholic social justice.

Annual Lenten lecture and awards to former directors
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin and Vice-President of the Bishops’ Conference, delivered the 2019 Trócaire/Saint Patrick’s College Lenten Lecture on 12 March.  Archbishop Martin spoke of his experiences working for justice and peace in the service of the Universal Church (see full text on www.dublindiocese.ie). 

The annual event also saw the awarding of two prestigious honours to former Trócaire executive directors.  Mr Justin Kilcullen, who served from 1993 to 2013, was conferred a Papal Knighthood of the Equestrian Order of Saint Gregory the Great, while Mr Éamonn Meehan, who held the post between 2013 and 2018, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Theology from Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth.  The doctorate was accepted by Mr Meehan on behalf of Trócaire.  The College said it was being awarded to Trócaire to honour the organisation’s work for human rights and justice in the developing world since 1973.

Trócaire’s Lenten appeal on land rights
Bishops encouraged everyone to support this year’s Trócaire Lenten appeal to raise vital funds for the agency’s work in the developing world.  Close to one million Trócaire boxes have been distributed nationwide to parishes and schools.  Bishops expressed their deep gratitude to the people of Ireland for their ongoing support for the work of Trócaire.

This year’s Lenten appeal is on the theme of land rights.  It highlights stories of people from Uganda, Guatemala and Syria who have lost their land, either through corporate land grab, war or simply because they are women. 

Trócaire reported to the bishops that corporate land grabbing is on the rise throughout the world.  People in the aforementioned countries have been curtailed in accessing natural resources such as land and water.  The resulting consequence is that they face poverty.  Land, six times the size of Ireland, has been lost in the developing world to corporations since 2000.  Much of this land has been taken from people who relied on it to provide for their families.  Communities who oppose land grabs are subjected to violence and intimidation.

The work of Trócaire transforms lives.  Last year Trócaire reached 2.8 million people with support and relief in some of the world’s poorest countries.  Donating to Trócaire’s Lenten appeal is a practical way to show solidarity with those living through injustice and hardship in countries less fortunate than our own.  To receive a Trócaire Lenten box, or to donate directly, access www.trocaire.org or phone 1850 408 408 (RoI) or 0800 912 1200 (NI).  

  • Saint Patrick’s Day, Sunday 17 March

Bishops prayed through the intercession of our national patron, Saint Patrick, for the faith and well-being of Irish people everywhere.  The plight of Patrick, himself a migrant, has been faced by many Irish people who have struggled to live and integrate into new cultures.  Patrick was called to serve and bring God to a people far from his homeland and became a pioneer in an inhospitable climate.  Bishops encouraged the faithful to honour our patron saint by participating in the celebration of Mass on Sunday next, 17 March. 

  • Lent and preparation for Holy Week and Easter

As we journey through the season of Lent let us remember “God never tires of forgiving us” – Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel).  The call to renewal in our Christian life is a central part of our preparation for Easter and bishops asked the faithful to offer up their fasting, prayer, reading of Scripture and works of mercy during Lent for the grace of healing and renewal for the Church in Ireland.

Bishops encouraged the faithful to read Pope Francis’ message for Lent 2019 on the theme ‘For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God’ (Romans 8:19) in which the Holy Father invites Christians to embody the paschal mystery more deeply and concretely in their personal, family and social lives, above all by fasting, prayer and almsgiving.  The message is available with resources on www.catholicbishops.ie

The faithful are invited to follow this year’s #LiveLent digital media initiative which involves daily short suggestions shared on Twitter @catholicbishops and on Instagram on prayer, fasting and charity in response to the Pope’s invitation not to let Lent pass in vain.

  • Vocations Sunday, 12 May: ‘The courage to take a risk for God’s promise’

Bishops welcomed Pope Francis’ message for Vocations Sunday, 12 May, on the theme, ‘The courage to take a risk for God’s promise’ (see www.catholicbishops.ie).  Bishops asked that  prayers be offered in parishes for vocations to the priesthood and to religious life. 

Vocations Sunday is a significant day in the Catholic calendar as we give prayerful thanks to God for those who have committed their lives to serve as priests and religious.  In addition, all of us as baptised faithful – lay, religious and clergy – have a special responsibility to pray for and to encourage vocations from within our own families and parishes, and we are reminded that: “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest” (Luke 10:2).  Mass for Vocations Sunday will be broadcast on RTÉ One Television on 12 May at 11.00am.

Over 18 and 19 May the Council for Vocations will host its ‘Come and See’ initiative at the national seminary, Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, in support of those discerning a vocation to the priesthood.

  • Bishops pray for the ministry of the Holy Father Pope Francis

Six years ago today, on 13 March 2013, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as Pope – the first pope to have the name “Francis”, the first Jesuit and the first Latin American.  Bishops remembered with gratitude the Holy Father’s visit to Ireland last August for the IX World Meeting of Families and prayed at Mass for the ministry of the Pope so that he will be strengthened for his mission in bringing the Gospel message of mercy and love to the faithful and to the world.

  • Appointments and award

The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference elected the following to serve for the next three years:

  • Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh as President
  • Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin as Vice-President
  • Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly SMA of Cashel & Emly as Episcopal Secretary
  • Bishop Dermot Farrell of Ossory as Finance Secretary

Bishops appointed episcopal members to a number of agencies and commissions of the Bishops’ Conference including to the newly established Council for Life.  Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin will be the council’s chairman and Father Dermot Meehan, Administrator of the Diocese of Achonry, has also been appointed as a member.

Concerning the objective of the Council for Life, Bishop Doran said “The council will give priority to exploring how best, in the current socio-cultural context, the Catholic community can offer practical support to women in crisis pregnancy, giving their unborn babies the best chance at life.  It will also give priority to promoting an understanding of life questions among young people and to engaging them in the challenge of defending life.”

Bishops welcomed Bishop Larry Duffy, Bishop of Clogher, as the newest member of the Bishops’ Conference.  Bishop Duffy’s episcopal ordination was celebrated in the Cathedral of Saint Macartan, Monaghan, on 10 February last.  Bishops offered their prayerful gratitude to Monsignor Joseph McGuinness, Parish Priest of Carrickmacross, who served with distinction as Diocesan Administrator of the Diocese of Clogher from October 2016 until January 2019.

Bishops paid warm tribute to Bishop Leo O’Reilly, Bishop Emeritus of Kilmore, who retired on 31 December 2018 having served 20 years as a member of the Bishops’ Conference.  Bishops acknowledged with gratitude the expertise and hard work of Bishop O’Reilly in his service especially to Catholic education.  Bishops welcomed to their meeting Monsignor Liam Kelly who was recently elected as Diocesan Administrator for the Diocese of Kilmore.

Bishops congratulated Father Brendan McConvery CSsR who received an honorary doctorate from Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the teaching and dissemination of theological scholarship, in addition to his service to the broader pastoral mission of the Church over the course of a long and distinguished career.


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