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Statement of the Winter 2019 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference

The Winter 2019 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference concluded this evening in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth.  Please see below details of issues discussed by the bishops during their meeting this week: 

  • Meeting Government ministers in Dublin on refugees and migrants
  • Homelessness – ‘In six months a lot can change’
  • Support for Trócaire Christmas Appeal
  • Sacrament of Reconciliation and Advent 2019, including online calendar
  • Publication of papers on the protection of minors in the Church
  • Visit to the Holy Land in January 2020
  • Catholic Schools Week in January 2020
  • National Eucharistic Congress in Knock and International Congress in Hungary
  • CCO’s Faithcast to be broadcast by EWTN
  • Bishops’ Conference membership
  • Appointment and acknowledgement

A statement on behalf of the bishops in Northern Ireland concerning the Westminster general election on 12 December will be published tomorrow.

  • Meeting Government ministers on refugees and migrants

Bishops discussed the community sponsorship model for welcoming refugees in the context of the meeting on 19 November, between Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop Michael Neary and Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly SMA with Minister for Justice and Equality, Mr Charlie Flanagan, and Minister of State with responsibility for Equality, Immigration and Integration, Mr David Stanton, at the ministers’ invitation.  Minister Stanton briefed the archbishops on this model and the success of the pilot scheme to date.  There was also discussion about the Irish Refugee Protection Programme through which Ireland has offered sanctuary to refugees fleeing violence and persecution in Syria.

Bishops called on all Catholic parishes and communities to welcome and assist refugees in their local areas in light of the Gospel message.  For Catholic communities who are able to be more proactive in terms of practically assisting with the accommodation and integration of refugees, bishops commended to them the Community Sponsorship Programme, overseen by the Department of Justice & Equality, as a practical expression of Catholic Social Teaching and a response to Pope Francis’ call for every parish to receive and welcome a refugee family.  The Bishops’ Council for Justice & Peace will hold an information session for parishes and communities wishing to become involved in this programme in Spring 2020.

Bishops discussed with concern the use of intolerant language in public and political discourse as well as the growing hostility towards migrants and refugees coming to Ireland.  Christians, in their language and actions, are asked to lead by example and to welcome the stranger.  Bishops reflected on Advent as a season for preparing for the coming of the Christ-child amongst us, Himself a migrant, and on our responsibility to welcome with open arms those who arrive here fleeing from war, persecution, starvation, and other forms of destitution.  Any form of xenophobia is opposed to Christianity.  As Jesus points out (Mt 15:19), it is in the heart that attitudes are formed, and it is out of these attitudes of the heart that actions flow.  Ultimately, racism will not be eradicated without changing peoples’ hearts and forming new attitudes.

Conference on the pastoral and social care of migrants and refugees in Athens

Bishop Denis Brennan, Bishop of Ferns, updated bishops on his attendance at the international meeting on the pastoral care of migrants which took place from 26 – 28 November in Athens, organised by the Migrations Section of the Commission for Pastoral and Social Care of bishops’ conferences of Europe (CCEE).  It included delegates from twenty-five countries ranging from Iceland to Turkey with the theme, ‘Local Community as a Model of Welcoming and Integration in Europe.’  The choice of Athens was appropriate as Greece has been in the frontline of migration having received 1.5 million migrants and refugees from Armenia, Albania, Syria, Turkey and a number of African countries in recent years.  The contributors spoke frankly about the huge range of difficulties facing the host country as it has opened up to so many people and did so in the context of a deep economic recession.  It was reported that small numbers of very vocal people mobilise to react negatively against the refugees.  Europe was criticised for its lack of solidarity, leaving the countries of the Mediterranean basin to bear the brunt of the demands of the refugee crisis.  Delegates celebrated Mass with refugees and visited night shelters, soup kitchens and abandoned shops and houses in the Neos Kosmos district of Athens.

  • Homelessness – ‘In six months a lot can change’

Bishops expressed their support for the Irish Inter-Church Committee initiative called ‘In six months a lot can change’.  This study resource and accompanying video is suitable for small groups to engage critically with the scriptures examining the meaning of home in God’s interactions with his people, exploring what home means for family life and how fear of losing home, or actually losing it, is devastating to the individual and for societal wellbeing.  Information on current realities in housing “markets” in both jurisdictions in Ireland, and their origin in intentional policy decisions, will stimulate consideration of the possibility of an alternative ordering of society where all have the right to secure a home life.  It is our prayer that God will use this resource to challenge our understanding of home as well as our preconceptions about the values of driving decisions behind the housing crisis.  We hope that it will enable us to engage with the issue through the richness of God’s word, and spur society into action, by giving hope that our voices and interactions, however small, can change narratives and bring about changes in our own hearts first, and then in our communities.  See www.irishchurches.org/homeless 

  • Support for Trócaire Christmas Appeal

Bishops urged support for Trócaire’s Christmas Appeal to help people trapped in war-torn countries.  Millions of children around the world have been born into war.  For example, one in five people in South Sudan – 2.2 million people – have been born since the country descended into civil war in 2013.  Millions more children in countries such as Syria, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo are living through conflicts older than they are.  This year Trócaire’s Christmas Appeal highlights the plight of people living through many of the world’s long-running conflicts.  Sadly these people have been largely forgotten by the world.  This Christmas, bishops ask the people of Ireland to show that they have not forgotten the developing world.  Alongside the Christmas Appeal, Trócaire has a range of ‘Global Gifts’ on sale that are hugely popular.  These gifts – including goats, chickens and school lunches – offer practical support to people living in the poorest countries in the world.  See www.trocaire.org

  • Sacrament of Reconciliation and Advent 2019, including online calendar

Bishops welcomed the Apostolic Letter by Pope Francis, published on the first Sunday of Advent, on the meaning and importance of the nativity scene.  In it he reminds us:

‘By being born in a manger, God himself launches the only true revolution that can give hope and dignity to the disinherited and the outcast: the revolution of love, the revolution of tenderness.  From the manger, Jesus proclaims, in a meek yet powerful way, the need for sharing with the poor as the path to a more human and fraternal world in which no one is excluded or marginalized.’

Bishops said, “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

(Penance) we receive the gift of God’s mercy and forgiveness.  We encourage all Catholics to make time during the season of Advent to celebrate and receive the gift of God’s love in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.”

A popular resource for prayer and reflection during Advent is the interactive online calendar.  In its sixth year, it can be enjoyed by people of all ages on the homepage of catholicbishops.ie and on smartphones.  This year’s online calendar focuses on the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis published in March, Christus vivit (Christ is Alive!), which the Holy Father addressed to all Christian young people following the October 2018 Synod of Bishops on ‘Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment’.  Each day during Advent a virtual door can be opened where faith content for family, school and parish can be found.  During this special liturgical season we are encouraged to make extra time for prayer, charity and penance.

On the first Sunday of Advent Pope Francis signed an Apostolic Letter on the meaning and importance of the Nativity scene (the Christmas Crib).  The Holy Father said, “The nativity scene is like a living Gospel rising up from the pages of sacred Scripture”.  Pope Francis hopes this Letter will encourage the family tradition of preparing the nativity scene, “but also the custom of setting it up in the workplace, in schools, hospitals, prisons and town squares.”

  • Publication of papers on the protection of minors in the Church

Last February Church leaders from across the globe gathered in Rome for a landmark meeting, convened by Pope Francis, on the protection of minors in the Church.  Veritas has published the keynote addresses from this gathering entitled Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church alongside the heartrending testimonies of survivors of abuse whose suffering was compounded by the rejection they faced after approaching the Church for help.  The presentations from this meeting, including Pope Francis’ widely discussed concluding speech, will contribute to the development and implementation of standards to eliminate sexual abuse in the Church.

  • Visit to the Holy Land in January 2020

Next month Bishop Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down & Connor, and Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ, Bishop of Raphoe, will participate in the annual pilgrimage to Palestine and Israel of the ‘Bishops of the Holy Land Coordination’ group, from 11 to 16 January.  Mandated by the Holy See, the group meets and travels to the Holy Land every January with a focus on prayer, pilgrimage and persuasion.  Its aim is to act in solidarity with the Christian community which experiences intense political and socio-economic pressure in the Holy Land.  The group will reiterate this support in person during its visit to communities in Palestine, including Gaza.

The chair of the group is Bishop Declan Lang of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales.  Representatives from other bishop conferences on the group – as well as from Ireland – include Germany, South Africa, USA, Scandinavia, Italy, France, Canada, Switzerland, Scotland and Portugal.  A Church of England bishop also travels as a member of the group.

  • Catholic Schools Week in 2020

Bishops offered their prayerful support to the organisers of, and participants in, Catholic Schools Week 2020.  CSW2020 will take place in parishes and Catholic schools across Ireland from 26 January – 2 February with the theme, ‘Catholic Schools: Living in harmony with God’s creation.’  Each day of CSW a specific aspect of the theme will be emphasised: Monday – Living in harmony with God; Tuesday – Living in harmony with our neighbours; Wednesday – Living in harmony with all generations; Thursday – Living in harmony with the Earth; and on Friday – Living in harmony with our Catholic school.  Resources for use by parishes and by primary and post-primary schools are now available on www.catholicbishops.ie 

  • National Eucharistic Congress in Knock and International Congress in Hungary

Bishop Kevin Doran, Bishop of Elphin and the Bishops’ Conference’s national delegate for Eucharistic Congresses, will lead a pilgrimage to the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress in Hungary, which will take place from 13 – 20 September 2020.  In preparation, bishops announced the hosting of a National Eucharistic Congress Adoremus 2020 at the national Marian shrine in Knock, Co Mayo, on 19 and 20 June next year.  Adoremus 2020 is a joint initiative between the National Apostolate of Eucharistic Adoration and the Bishops’ Conference.  Bishops encouraged parishes to assist pilgrims who wish to attend and participate in the National Eucharistic Congress.  Bishops prayed for the success of both events which are important celebrations of faith in the life of the local and universal Church.

  • CCO’s Faithcast to be broadcast by EWTN

Faithcast is the weekly audio podcast published by the Catholic Communications Office, featuring interviews, news and stories of faith and is hosted on the Audioboom podcasting platform and on catholicbishops.ie.  From the 9 December Faithcast will also be broadcast by ‘EWTN Catholic Talk Radio for Britain and Ireland’ channel, on a daily basis.  Radio Maria Ireland has been broadcasting Faithcast for the last year.  To access previous Faithcast content see the catholicbishops.ie homepage.

  • Bishops’ Conference membership

Following his Episcopal Ordination on 13 October last in the Cathedral of Saint Brendan, Loughrea, Co Galway, Bishop Michael Duignan, Bishop of Clonfert, attended this his first Bishops’ Conference meeting and was welcomed by the bishops.

  • Appointment and acknowledgement

Monsignor Joseph McGuinness PP, VG, Carrickmacross and Administrator, Magheracloone, Diocese of Clogher, has been appointed to the post of Executive Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference.  Monsignor McGuinness will succeed Monsignor Gearóid Dullea and will take up this appointment early in the New Year.  The Executive Secretary is responsible for organising how the work of the Conference is prepared, arranged and carried out.  He ensures that the Secretariat is at the service of the Conference and its members, and works under the direction of its President and Episcopal Secretary.  Archbishop Eamon Martin, as President of the Conference, thanked Monsignor Dullea for his excellent work since his appointment in  October 2010.  Monsignor Dullea will return to ministry in the Diocese of Cork & Ross. 

ENDS                                                   

For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long +353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm +353 (0) 87 310 4444.

 

 

 

 

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