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Statement of the Spring 2020 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference

The following issues were discussed during the Spring General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference which concluded yesterday evening at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Please contact the Catholic Communications Office to arrange for a media interview:

· Bishops’ Conference response to COVID-19 (the Coronavirus)
· Saint Patrick’s Day, Tuesday 17 March 2020
· Lent and preparation for Holy Week and Easter
· National Eucharistic Congress/Adoremus 2020 at the Marian Shrine, Knock, and the International Eucharistic Congress in Hungry
· Trócaire Lenten campaign
· Safeguarding children in the Catholic Church
· Letter on the sanctity of human life to the Northern Ireland Secretary of State
· Welcoming Pope Francis’ theme of synodality for the next Synod of Bishops
· Congratulations to Archbishop John McDowell of the Church of Ireland
· Appointments

· Bishops’ Conference response to COVID-19 (the Coronavirus)
Bishops joined in prayerful solidarity with the Holy Father Pope Francis who, on Sunday, assured “those suffering from the current coronavirus epidemic and to all those who are caring for them” of his prayers. Whilst the threat to public health continues to evolve, Irish bishops have provided the following guidance to help the faithful sustain Church life during this trying time for all of us https://www.catholicbishops.ie/2020/03/11/irish-catholic-bishops-conference-statement-on-liturgical-considerations-in-the-context-of-covid-19-coronavirus/

· Saint Patrick’s Day, Tuesday 17 March 2020
Bishops prayed through the intercession of our national patron, Saint Patrick, for the faith and well-being of Irish people everywhere. In particular bishops prayed for those who are selflessly dedicated to the frontline services of medicine and public health, in the care of our vulnerable, isolated, and ill sisters and brothers.

· Lent and preparation for Holy Week and Easter
Bishops reflected on the call to renewal in our Christian life which is a central part of our preparation for Easter. Pope Francis reminds us that, as we journey through the season of Lent, “God never tires of forgiving us” (Evangelii Gaudium The Joy of the Gospel). Bishops ask of the faithful to offer up their fasting, prayer, reading of Scripture and works of mercy during Lent for the grace of healing and renewal.

Bishops encourage the faithful to read Pope Francis’ message for Lent 2020 https://www.catholicbishops.ie/2020/02/24/living-lent-2020/ on the theme “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). Parishioners are also invited to follow this year’s #LivingLent digital media initiative which, each day, involves a short suggestion 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.

· National Eucharistic Congress/Adoremus 2020 at the Marian Shrine, Knock, and the International Eucharistic Congress in Hungary
Ireland previously hosted International Eucharistic Congresses in 1932 and 2012, and from 13 to 20 September the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress will be held in Budapest, Hungary. The aim of the Eucharist Congress is to promote an awareness of the central place of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Catholic Church; to help improve our understanding and celebration of the liturgy and to draw attention to the social dimension of the Eucharist. Bookings are now open for the official Irish pilgrimage which will be led by Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin, the Bishops’ Conference delegate for International Eucharistic Congresses. The theme of the Congress is ‘All My Springs are in You’ from Psalm 87 which refers to God as the source (or spring) of life for his people. The daily activities of the Congress consist of the celebration of Mass and the delivery of catechesis and testimonies by clergy and well known lay Catholics from around the world.

To prepare for the IEC2020 in Budapest, a National Eucharistic Congress/Adoremus 2020 is planned to take place at the national Marian shrine in Knock, Co Mayo, on 19 and 20 June. Adoremus 2020 is a joint initiative between the National Apostolate of Eucharistic Adoration and the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference. All are welcome.

· Trócaire 2020 Lenten Appeal
Bishops thanked everyone for their generous support of Trócaire and asked that they continue this support during the season of Lent to raise vital funds for almost three million of our poorest sisters and brothers around the world.

Bishops said, “This year’s Trócaire Lenten campaign highlights the efforts of mothers in the developing world to provide for their families in the face of threats including climate change and land grabs. The worsening impacts of climate change and displacement compel us to support those worst affected. Families looking to provide food and safety for their children should be met with open hearts and compassion. The work of Trócaire is made possible by the support of schools and parishes across Ireland, particularly during Lent. This support translates into clean water and healthy crops for millions of people living in poverty in the developing world. Through Trócaire, the Catholic Church in Ireland leaves a footprint of hope in communities ravaged by conflict and extreme poverty. The work of Trócaire is vital and it embodies the mission of the Church.”

· Safeguarding children in the Catholic Church
Mr John Morgan, chairperson, and Ms Teresa Devlin, chief executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland, advised the Bishops’ Conference on activities engaging the current work of the Board on strategic matters relating to governance and information sharing. Bishops were briefed on the revised training manual and approach, which seeks to engage Church personnel in a more reflective learning style to build skills and capacity across the Church in child safeguarding ministry. Bishops were advised that the National Board will host its conference in Monaghan on 16 and17 October on the theme of theology and child safeguarding. Speakers will include Father Hans Zollner SJ who is a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and president of the Centre for Child Protection at the Gregorian University, Rome.

· Letter on the sanctity of human life to the Northern Ireland Secretary of State
This week, the Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland wrote to the Secretary of State, Mr Brandon Lewis MP, expressing their concern about the proposed New Legal Framework for Abortion Services stating that while abortion was a devolved matter, “the Westminster Government removed protections to the life of the unborn child with chilling alacrity. The imposition of such draconian and unjust legislation ensures that the issue will never cease to be contentious”. Bishops also strongly criticised the Northern Ireland Office’s proposal for abortion on demand up to 12 or 14 weeks, including sex-selective abortions, and “that the New Legal Framework will help to facilitate a significant increase in the number of disabled unborn children who are aborted in our society.”

The bishops’ letter emphasised that “the direct and intentional killing of innocent human beings by means of abortion ignores the right to life of the unborn. For this reason all Christians and people of goodwill are obliged in conscience not to cooperate formally in abortion services, even if permitted by civil legislation”, and this includes all health professional and ancillary staff. The signatories to the letter are: Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh and Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Dromore; Bishop Noel Treanor of Down & Connor; Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry; Bishop Larry Duffy of Clogher; and, Bishop Michael Router, Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh. The content of the letter is available here .

· Welcoming Pope Francis’ theme of synodality for the next Synod of Bishops
The XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will take place in October 2022 in the Vatican. Bishops welcomed the recent announcement by Pope Francis that the theme of this synod will be: For a synodal Church: communion, participation, and mission.

· Congratulations to Archbishop John McDowell of the Church of Ireland
The Bishops’ Conference offered their prayerful congratulations to the Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher, Bishop John McDowell, on his election yesterday as the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland. The bishops offered prayers for Archbishop McDowell’s predecessor, Archbishop Richard Clarke, and wished him well on his retirement.

· Appointments
Bishops offered their prayers and congratulations to Bishop-elect Paul Dempsey whom Pope Francis appointed as the new Bishop of Achonry on 27 January last. The Episcopal Ordination Mass for Bishop-elect Dempsey will take place on Sunday 19 April next.

Bishops expressed their deep gratitude to Monsignor Ciarán O’Carroll of the Archdiocese of Dublin for his generous ministry as Rector of the Pontifical Irish College, Rome, which comes to an end after nine years of service. Bishops announced that Father Paul Finnerty of the Diocese of Limerick, currently Vice-Rector, will become Acting-Rector of the College. The current director of formation, Father John Coughlan of the Diocese of Elphin, will become vice-rector.

Bishops welcomed the appointment of Mr Patrick Logue to the post of National Director for Catechetics and thanked the outgoing National Director, Ms Kate Liffey, for her valuable contribution to this role.

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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