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Statement of the Summer 2022 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference

Members of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference gathered in-person this week for their Summer 2022 General Meeting at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth.  The President of the Conference is Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh and the Vice-President is Archbishop Dermot Farrell of Dublin.

During their meeting bishops prayed for the repose of the souls of those who died from Covid-19; in consolation for their bereaved, and for everyone who continues to suffer from the virus.  Bishops also remembered in their prayers victims and families of the violent atrocities perpetrated against the innocent during Mass on Pentecost Sunday in Owo, Nigeria.  They also included in their prayers victims of shootings in the United States, on 24 May, in Uvalde, Texas, and in Buffalo, New York, on 14 May.

Maynooth Union

Bishops offered their prayerful good wishes to all those attending attending the annual Maynooth Union conference this week at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth.  The conference is an opportunity for those priests, who are celebrating significant anniversaries of their ordination, to gather with classmates in a spirit of prayer.  2022 sees several diamond, golden and silver jubilees being marked of priests ordained sixty, fifty and twenty-five years ago.  This year’s event is the first in-person gathering of Jubilarians since before the Covid-19 pandemic.  Guest speakers included Sister Nathalie Becquart, Undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops; Baroness Nuala O’Loan, and Bishop Paul Tighe, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture.  Bishops also offered prayers for the ministry of all priests at this time.

The main issues discussed by the bishops during their Summer General Meeting included:

  • National Pre-Synodal Assembly to take place in Athlone this Saturday, 18 June
  • Bishops’ appreciation for €4.3m collected for the people of Ukraine and discuss plight of refugees in Ireland
  • Child safeguarding
  • Northern Ireland
  • 10th World Meeting of Families in Rome
  • World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly – In old age they will still bear fruit
  • Trócaire – one person to die from hunger every 48 seconds in the Horn of Africa
  • Appointments
  • National Pre-Synodal Assembly to take place in Athlone this Saturday, 18 June

Over 160 delegates, representing the life of the Church on the island of Ireland, will attend the National Pre-Synodal Assembly this Saturday, 18 June, in Athlone, Co Westmeath, and a prayer service at the nearby ancient monastic site of Clonmacnoise in Co Offaly.  This gathering is an important moment of the first stage of the Universal Synodal process: the diocesan and national phases.  This Saturday also marks a milestone in the five-year Synodal Pathway timeline for the Church in Ireland, which comprises two phases:

  • a two-year phase of listening and discernment (2021 – 2023);
  • followed by a three-year phase of planning and implementation.

This listening process has been the widest consultation undertaken by the Church, and feedback from the faithful across the country will be integrated into preparations for the Universal Synod (2021 – 2023).  Saturday’s gathering will see diocesan delegates and other participating groups coming together to prepare the national synthesis which, when completed, will be sent on to the Vatican as part of the Universal Synod process. 

Address by Sister Nathalie Becquart, Undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops

Sister Nathalie Becquart XMCJ, Undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, addressed the Summer General Meeting of Bishops in Maynooth on the theme of synodality.  Sister Becquart reflected that Pope Francis’ initiation of the Synodal process marks the first time in 2000 years that the Universal Church has undertaken such a consultation, which is nearing the end of its first stage, the diocesan phase.

Sister Becquart said that in most countries at this time, local Churches are drafting their national syntheses based on all the contributions garnered from their respective parishes and dioceses.  This is being marked in many places by an assembly, such as Saturday’s gathering in Athlone.  She remarked how interesting it is to see how this unique universal listening process is being implemented in different ways, thus allowing for creativity at local level.

Sister Becquart emphasised that Pope Francis strongly considers the most important phase of the synodal process to be the diocesan phase as it draws on input from the grassroots.  She said that the Holy Father asks of everybody to give their voice to the process regardless of their background and experience of Church.  The Pope’s vision of the synodal Church is a Church with all baptised journeying together as people of God.

In this way Sister Becquart said that everybody is a protagonist because, as baptised, we are called together to be missionary disciples, and to carry on the mission of the Church.  She said that it is very important to discern together, and to journey together; to listen to the Holy Spirit, because that’s the main goal of the synodal process: to truly listen to the Holy Spirit through a process of mutual listening, where everybody has to give her or his voice especially – the laity – as they are the major part of the Church.

Sister Becquart concluded that the synodal process for the Church locally, and universally, is a creative path and that we have no idea yet where it will end.  However, she said that it is through this experience of the journey, step-by-step, that the faithful are unfolding this path which, at its core, is a spiritual process.  Therefore, we have to be open to the “surprises of the Holy Spirit.”  Sister Becquart said that her own deep hope is that, by the end of the synodal process, we will all experience a Church united together as sisters and brothers in Christ, – collaborating men and women, young and old, priests, bishops, laity – sharing the joy and fruits of our missionary journey for the benefit of all humanity.

  • Bishops’ appreciation for €4.3m collected for the people of Ukraine and discuss plight of refugees in Ireland

Following the special Church collection over 26 and 27 March to help the humanitarian crisis arising from the Russian invasion and war in Ukraine, over €4.3m has been received from parish collections throughout the country.  These funds are being channelled to assist those who are suffering devastation to their lives and livelihoods.

Bishops said, “our parishes have responded with enormous generosity and compassion and we are most grateful for that.  It is also heartening that some parish communities have established direct links with Ukrainian parishes and local charitable projects to support refugees and those remaining in Ukraine.  The proceeds are being sent to the international Catholic Church agency, Caritas Internationalis, which is currently operating on the ground in Ukraine and its surrounding areas.”

Bishops discussed the ongoing war in Ukraine and its tragic, traumatic and dehumanising impacts for her people.  In praying for all those affected by war, bishops joined with Pope Francis, and with bishops from across Europe, in calling for an end to the human misery being inflicted on Ukrainian people.

Bishops analysed the response in Ireland to the Ukrainian refugee crisis, and expressed welcome to the more than 35,000 Ukrainian people – mostly women and children – who have come to Ireland since 24 February last.  Bishops also expressed their thanks and recognition to the many parishes, religious and Church groups, as well as various community organisations, who have provided and helped provide accommodation for refugees.  Bishops encouraged parishes and faith communities to continue to reach out to those living in their local area to ensure adequate provision for their pastoral and spiritual needs.

While welcoming the initial response of the European Union and the Government of Ireland in welcoming refugees, bishops expressed their concern about reports on the conditions that some Ukrainian and other refugees are experiencing in Ireland.

Bishops said, “It is incumbent on civil authorities – North and South – to assist those who have experienced hardship and displacement, and this should include cross-border cooperation on the island of Ireland.  As a Church, we are working to improve the quality of life, and to uphold the dignity, of those who have come to our country for refuge.”

  • Child safeguarding

Teresa Devlin, chief executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, appraised bishops of recent key achievements of the Board as detailed in its 2021 Annual Report which was published this week.  This report can be accessed at

https://www.safeguarding.ie/images/Pdfs/Annual_Reports/Annual%20Report%202021.pdf  Ms Devlin also updated the meeting on information concerning data protection and on the reporting of allegations against deceased clerics and religious.

  • Northern Ireland

In congratulating those elected in the Northern Ireland Assembly Elections on 5 May, bishops expressed their prayer-filled hope that there would soon be a functioning, effective and stable Assembly and Executive in Northern Ireland so as to tackle the major economic and social problems that are negatively affecting people, especially the most vulnerable.  Bishops echoed the reflections of the Northern Catholic Bishops before the elections, namely that a ‘functioning and stable Executive and Assembly will provide the most stable space to work through the important issues of reconciliation, legacy and our constitutional future.’

Bishops said, “recent developments regarding the Northern Ireland protocol have the potential to undermine trust in the political process and threaten economic wellbeing.  While these developments may be seen as simply in the realm of politics, the daily reality for people and communities in the North is that help is required – urgently – to deal with the cost of living crisis, the crisis in the health service, to protect peace and to serve the common good.  We urge political leaders once again to recognise that resolution is best found through negotiation, and the active engagement between the United Kingdom Government and the European Union, serving and promoting peace and stability.” 

  • 10th World Meeting of Families in Rome

Bishops offered their prayerful good wishes to the Diocese of Rome as it prepares to host the 10th World Meeting of  Families, 22 – 26 June, on the theme, ‘Family love: a vocation and a path to holiness.’  Ireland hosted the 9th World Meeting of Families in August 2018 which was attended by Pope Francis.  An Irish delegation will attend the gathering next week comprising family members as well as the President of the Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, Vice-President Archbishop Dermot Farrell of Dublin and the Chair of the Council for Marriage & Family Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare & Leighlin. 

In support of Pope Francis’ wish that the celebration of the World Meeting of Families may take place in every diocese around the world and, if possible, every parish, a pastoral kit has been prepared and is available on www.catholicbishops.ie and on www.laityfamilylife.va.  

During their meeting, bishops encouraged parishes to follow the ceremonies that will be live-streamed from Rome, perhaps by way of gathering in a parish centre to watch them.  ‘The Festival of Families’ will take place on the evening of Wednesday 22 June; the closing Mass on the evening of Saturday 25 June; and the Angelus and ‘Mandate to Families’ from Pope Francis will be shared on the morning of Sunday 26 June. 

Families and parishes are invited to pray the Prayer for the World Meeting of Family 2022:

Prayer for the World Meeting of Families 2022: Family Love: Vocation and Path to Holiness

Heavenly Father,
We come before You to praise You
and to thank You for the great gift of the family.
We pray to You for all families
consecrated by the Sacrament of Matrimony.
May they rediscover each day
the grace they have received,
and as small domestic Churches,
may they know how to witness to Your presence
and to the love with which Christ loves the Church.
We pray to You for all families faced with difficulty and suffering
caused by illness or circumstances of which only You know.
Sustain them and make them aware
of the path to holiness upon which You call them,
so that they might experience Your infinite mercy
and find new ways to grow in love.
We pray to You for children and young people:
may they encounter You and respond joyfully
to the vocation You have in mind for them;
We pray for parents and grandparents: may they be aware
that they are signs of the fatherhood and motherhood of God
in caring for the children who, in body and spirit, You entrust to them;
and for the experience of fraternity
that the family can give to the world.

Lord, grant that each family
might live their specific vocation to holiness in the Church
as a call to become missionary disciples,
in the service of life and peace,
in communion with our priests, religious,
and all vocations in the Church.

Bless the World Meeting of Families. Amen.

  • World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly – In old age they will still bear fruit

Pope Francis’ message for the celebration of the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly was welcomed by bishops.  The World Day will take place on Sunday 24 July with the theme In old age they will still bear fruit (Psalm 92:15).  Bishops acknowledged the central theme of the message, which is to promote dialogue among the generations, especially between grandparents and grandchildren and to bring together the wisdom of the elderly and the enthusiasm of the young.

The World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly was celebrated for the first time in 2021 as one of the fruits of the Amoris Laetitia Family Year.  Parishes are encouraged to celebrate this special day and appreciation was expressed to the Council for Marriage and the Family – which is made up of family members from across Ireland – for preparing resources that will be available from 1 July on www.catholicbishops.ie.  

  • Trócaire – one person to die from hunger every 48 seconds in the Horn of Africa

Trócaire advised bishops of the devastating impact that climate change is having on the countries in which it works, with the Horn of Africa facing its fourth consecutive year of drought.  In Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia one person is likely to die from hunger every 48 seconds, while approximately 5.7 million children are acutely malnourished.  The United Nations warns that 350,000 children could die by the autumn unless action is taken.

The threat of famine is due to the continual failure to address the lethal combination of climate change, conflict and the economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, which have left the region in extreme crisis.  This has been exacerbated by the disruption of the global economy and food systems as a result of war in Ukraine, with fuel and food prices spiralling.  Bishops call on Government, and the international community, to act immediately to end this hunger crisis, which may be achievable if a concerted effort is made now.

  • Appointments

Bishops expressed their gratitude to His Excellency Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo for his ministry since May 2017 as Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland.  Archbishop Okolo will soon take up his new mission as the Apostolic Nuncio to the Czech Republic.  Bishops also conveyed their gratitude to Bishop Brendan Kelly, Bishop Emeritus of Galway, Kilmacduagh & Kilfenora, for his service to the Bishops’ Conference and offered their prayerful good wishes and support to his successor Bishop Michael Duignan, Bishop of Clonfert.

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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