Statement of the Autumn 2023 General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference

05 Oct 2023

Members of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference gathered this week in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, for their Autumn 2023 General Meeting.  The President of the Conference is Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh and the Vice-President is Archbishop Dermot Farrell of Dublin.  During the meeting, Mass was offered in the College Chapel for the Synod on Synodality in Rome, and for the current, retired and deceased clergy and staff of the College, councils, agencies and initiatives of the Bishops’ Conference.
Conscious of recent road tragedies on the island of Ireland, bishops remembered in their prayers victims and survivors of road collisions, their families, local clergy, other first responders and affected communities.
The main issues discussed by bishops during their Autumn General Meeting included:

  • Welcoming Laudate Deum (Praise God) – new exhortation by Pope Francis
  • Budget 2024 measures should target poverty and income protection
  • Bishops express concern re passing of Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy & Reconciliation) Act 2023
  • Universal Synodal Assembly and Irish Synodal Pathway
  • Safeguarding Children
  • Prayers for Peace and bells to be rung on 11 November
  • Call to pray and display red for persecuted Christians on Red Wednesday, 22 November
  • Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly to celebrate televised Mass on RTÉ for World Mission Sunday on 22 October
  • (i) Year for Vocation to the Diocesan Priesthood (ii) Jubilee of Consecrated Life
  • In Memoriam


  • Welcoming Laudate Deum (Praise God) – new exhortation by Pope Francis

Statement published here.

  • Budget 2024 measures should target poverty and income protection

In the context of Government’s publication of Budget 2024 on Tuesday next, 10 October, bishops reflected on the continuing financial and social pressures facing many families.
Representatives of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul presented the Society’s Pre-Budget Submission. The PBS analysis is based on robust research of the work of the Society’s 11,000 volunteers who help many vulnerable people in poverty, trying to deal with the housing crisis, with reduced access to education, with income insecurity, and affected by the continuing energy crisis.
Bishops congratulated the Society on its outstanding work across the island of Ireland in addressing poverty, helping people to be self-sufficient and advocating for social justice.  Bishops also acknowledged the regular financial support provided to the Society from hundreds of thousands of people who attend Mass in parishes at weekends, and encouraged people to continue to support the work of the Society, including through the recruitment of much needed additional volunteers.
Bishops noted, in particular, the scandal that 875,000 people are going without basics, and far too many children are living in enforced deprivation.  Taken together with the reality of 12,000 people living in emergency accommodation and that 377,000 people were unable to afford suitable and sufficient heating in 2022, bishops said that, “this untenable situation necessitates radical action by Government so that, through solidarity, the State can fulfil its duty to uphold the God-given dignity of all people.”
Bishops continued, “we strongly call for targeted supports in Budget 2024, in order:

  • to protect the incomes of the most vulnerable in our society;
  • so that social welfare increases keep in line with inflation;  
  • that the Government includes measures to address child poverty, including childcare costs, and early interventions aimed at addressing inter-generational poverty;
  • that financial supports are focused on people with disabilities to enable them participate more fully in the community.

“These measures are necessary, not as a form of charity, rather, as a statement of solidarity that shows how we are all connected and responsible for each other.  This means we must, as a society, help all in need to be self-sufficient and able to contribute to the common good.”
Worsening financial situation facing people in Northern Ireland
Bishops prayed for continued peace on the island of Ireland.
Bishops discussed the worsening financial situation facing people in Northern Ireland that is due to a variety of factors, notably the lack of a functioning Executive and Assembly, which has led to cuts in public services.  The absence of local political accountability is affecting delivery of a range of supports for families and individuals, including those in education, and dependent on social support.  In this regard, bishops welcomed the work over recent months by the Christian Coalition Against Poverty (which includes the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, and the Bishops’ Northern Ireland Catholic Council for Social Affairs), which are urging the UK government to invoke its power under Section 28 (e) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, so as to prioritise measures aimed at alleviating poverty.
Call to increase Ireland’s Overseas Development Assistance
In addition, in light of ever-increasing humanitarian needs globally, and the imperative for increased investment to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, bishops call on the Government to build on the increase in overseas aid last year.  Bishops said that the Government must make real and tangible progress in its longstanding commitment to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income of Official Development Assistance, by increasing its allocation by €305 million in the forthcoming budget. 

  • Bishops express concern re passing of Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy & Reconciliation) Act 2023

Bishops discussed the recent passing by the Westminster Parliament of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act 2023, noting that this legislation was passed without the support of victims of the Troubles or of political parties in the north or south. The bishops expressed the view that this legislation is unlikely to contribute to the work for reconciliation and healing Indeed, they contend, it further undermines confidence in the political process in Northern Ireland.

  • Universal Synodal Assembly and Irish Synodal Pathway

Universal Synod
Bishops offered their prayerful good wishes to all participants at the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which officially opens today with a celebration of the Eucharist in Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican.  The theme of the Synod is ‘For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.’  At their meeting, bishops echoed Pope Francis’ comment that ‘without prayer there will be no Synod’ and invited people of faith to continue to pray incessantly over the coming weeks for all members of the Synodal Assembly.
Attending as representatives of the Bishops’ Conference are Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick, and Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ of Raphoe.  Also present at the Synod are Sister Mary Barron OLA, in her role as President of the International Union of Superiors General; Sister Patricia Murray IBVM, as Executive Secretary of the International Union of Superiors General; and, Rev Professor Eamon Conway, a priest of the Archdiocese of Tuam, who will serve the Synod as an ‘Expert and Facilitator’. 
Irish Synodal Pathway
The initial two-year phase of the Irish Synodal Pathway began in September 2021.  As the announcement of the Irish Synodal Pathway and the Universal Synod coincided, this phase of the Irish Synodal Pathway became a period of prayer, listening and discernment, which involved a local and nationwide consultation based upon the themes of the Universal Synod.
The two-year term of the Steering Committee and Task Group for the Irish Synodal Pathway came to an end in September.  The Steering Committee, co-chaired by Dr Nicola Brady and Father Declan Hurley of Meath, submitted its report, along with an accompanying research report, to the Bishops’ Conference for discussion during this Autumn General meeting.  Bishops dedicated their discussion to the content of both reports, facilitated by Ms Julieann Moran, General Secretary, and Task Group Convener Father Éamonn Fitzgibbon of Limerick.  The reports outline several recommendations for the next steps in the Synodal Pathway, as well as proposals for the content and structure of future synodal assemblies in Ireland.  Bishops thanked all members of the Steering Committee and Task Group for their generosity of time, work and commitment to the synodal process to date.  Once finalised, both reports will be published.
The next three-year phase of the Irish Synodal Pathway is the planning phase, which will bring together and seek to implement the fruits and recommendations from the Initial Phase.

  • Safeguarding Children

Judge Garrett Sheehan, chair of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, and chief executive Teresa Devlin, advised the bishops on activities engaging the current work of the Board, specifically its engagement with Church personnel in drafting a revised child safeguarding policy which will reflect more strongly the requirements of governance and leadership, thereby bringing the Church’s policy up-to-date with changes in civil and canon law.
The safeguarding presentation also referred to transitional justice approaches to the needs of survivors of abuse which are being developed in various settings around the world. The four key elements of this approach include: truth; justice; reparation and a commitment to non-recurrence. 
A further aspect of survivor engagement relates to approaches to atonement, such as events that are already happening in Ireland, but also new possibilities of engaging with survivors that enable listening and acknowledging the pain caused by abuse within the Church.
Finally, Ms Devlin reported on her work as a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, regarding the drafting of universal guidelines for child safeguarding.

  • Prayers for Peace and bells to be rung on 11 November

Pope Francis has called for Europe to be more creative in the way that we respond to the war in Ukraine includes “a need for more prayer, for conversion, and an end to the conflict.”  In this vein, bishops encourage the faithful to follow in prayer the request of the Holy Father “that during the month of October, the Rosary be dedicated to peace and reconciliation in Ukraine.”  Bishops also ask that a dedicated prayer for peace be included by parishes in the Prayer of the Faithful during the celebration of Mass in October – see below.
On Saturday 11 November, at 11.00 am, coinciding with the end of the First World War, cathedrals and parish churches are invited to ring church bells as a call for peace and an end to war.
Blessed are the Peacemakers
We pray to You O Lord, through the intercession of Your Most Pure Mother Mary,
Give to the people suffering war and conflict the gift of peace, for you have given us all else:
A peace that all of us share in the passion and wisdom that is the Lord Jesus Christ.
The peace of the Sabbath, and the peace that knows no evening.
Stir up in the hearts and the minds of our leaders and politicians a longing for peace,
That brings real joy and our hearts will be restless no more.

  • Call to pray and display red for persecuted Christians on Red Wednesday, 22 November

Bishops are encouraging dioceses and parishes to avail of Wednesday, 22 November, as an opportunity to highlight the persecution of Christians worldwide and, where possible, to offer prayers and to light up cathedrals and churches in red around Ireland on that evening.  Bishops recently received an updated report from Aid to the Church in Need on this issue.
Bishops said, “the continuing persecution of Christians in so many parts of the world is a reason for Irish people to take steps to show solidarity with them through prayer, the sharing of information and to advocate for them with politicians and the wider community.”
ACN is a Catholic charity established in 1947 to help serve suffering and persecuted Christians around the world who are in material need as a result of discrimination and oppression.  One of the initiatives of ACN Ireland is ‘Red Wednesday’, which this year falls on 22 November.  Red Wednesday occurs in the middle of a week of witness and prayer for persecuted Christians across the world, including prayer vigils on Red Wednesday itself.
In addition, bishops welcomed recent comments by An Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mícheál Martin TD, regarding the harassment of Christians in Jerusalem, particularly his call to the Israeli government, and the Palestinian Authority, on their respective obligations to safeguard the rights of Christians, and the responsibility of the Israeli authorities to preserve the status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem.  They also extended congratulations and prayerful good wishes to Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, who was elevated to the College of Cardinals by Pope Francis last Saturday. His appointment reflects the priority the Church gives to the Holy Land and gives a voice to Catholics and other Christians there.

  • Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly to celebrate televised Mass on RTÉ for World Mission Sunday on 22 October

October is mission month, and Pope Francis has chosen this year’s theme ‘Hearts on Fire, Feet on the Move’, which is inspired by the Gospel of Luke (cf 24:13 – 35) and the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus who encounter Christ.  The theme salutes the women and men who commit their vocational life to service as missionaries to people around the world living in abject poverty, where hunger and poverty are omnipresent.  The faithful are asked to give what they can at Mass to support missionaries during World Mission Sunday nationwide collection on 22 October.  Missio Ireland, the Pope’s official charity for overseas mission in Ireland, has issued special ‘Mission Month’ packs to parishes with a focus on Calcutta.  The packs are also available to download on
Bishops expressed their deep appreciation to everyone who contributed to the 2022 mission collection of over €1.3m, raised across Ireland to support seminarians, missionary priests, sisters, brothers and catechists, on World Mission Sunday.
Archbishop O’Reilly to celebrate televised Mass on World Mission Sunday
Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly SMA of Cashel & Emly, and chair of the Bishops’ Council for Missions, will celebrate a televised Mass for World Mission Sunday from the RTÉ studios in Dublin at 11.00am on 22 October.  Preparations for this Mass are being coordinated by the three missionary organisations: Missio Ireland, Misean Cara and the Association of Missionaries and Religious Leaders in Ireland.

  • (i) Year for Vocation to the Diocesan Priesthood (ii) Jubilee of Consecrated Life

Bishops prayed for vocations to the priesthood and asked the faithful to remember in the prayers those who are discerning a vocation to the priesthood and religious life at this time.
Bishops commended the Council for Vocations for its ongoing work to promote the ‘Year for Vocation to the Diocesan Priesthood’ around the island, and on social and traditional media.  Since its inception on Good Shepherd Sunday, the Year for Vocation has provoked an increase in interest in what it means to be a diocesan priest in contemporary Ireland.  Such feedback has been especially apparent in the context of the vocations conference in Maynooth, the Croagh Patrick pilgrimage, various media profiles of seminarians and priests, Irish participation at World Youth Day in Lisbon, the prayer gathering during the national novena in Knock to launch the vocations cross, the Lough Derg vocations pilgrimage, and at the recent national and international ploughing championships in Ratheniska, Co Laois.
Upcoming initiatives include:

  • an ‘Art for Vocations’ exhibition on 18 October, the Feast of Saint Luke the patron of artists, which will be held in Portlaoise Parish Centre;
  • a ‘Come and See – Take the Risk for Christ’ information weekend on 18 and 19 November in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, for those interested in seeking a deeper understanding of diocesan priesthood. 

For further details on the above email [email protected].
Jubilee of Consecrated Life
Bishops expressed their deep gratitude to the sacrifice and commitment given by religious sisters, brothers and priests to the mission of the Church, both in Ireland and throughout the world.  They welcomed that a ‘Jubilee of Consecrated Life’ – a celebration of hope for religious life – will be held in Rome on 8 and 9 October 2025, as part of the Jubilee Holy Year.  The theme for the Jubilee Year will be ‘Pilgrims of hope, on the path to peace’.

  • In Memoriam

Bishops prayed for the repose of the souls of Bishop Liam MacDaid, Bishop-Emeritus of Clogher, who passed into Eternal Life on 15 August; for Monsignor Brendan Devlin of Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, who passed into Eternal Life on 19 September and for Rev Dr Oliver Treanor, former lecturer at Saint Malachy’s College, Belfast, and Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, who passed into Eternal Life on 2 July.  Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilís.