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The Autumn 2017 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference concluded on Wednesday evening (4th October 2017 - Feast of St Francis of Assisi) in Saint Patrick's College, Maynooth. Please see below issues that were discussed during the bishops' meeting:
Prayers for those killed and injured in Las Vegas
Bishops prayed for those killed and injured following the shootings in Las Vegas on 1 October. Bishops prayed that the survivors, their families and loved ones may find strength and healing in their faith and receive the support of compassionate caregivers as they begin to recover from the trauma of their physical and emotional wounds.
The sanctity of human life
Bishops reaffirmed the sanctity and innate dignity inherent in every human life, from conception to natural death, as a value for the whole of society, rooted in reason as well as faith. Bishops reflected on last Sunday's pastoral message to parishes which marked the annual 'Day for Life': Fostering a Culture that Protects Life and Respects Women. The Day for Life message addressed both the current campaign to remove Article 40.3.3 (the pro-life eighth amendment) from the Constitution of Ireland, as well as the consequences in Britain since the enactment of the Abortion Act 1967.
Bishops noted that the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution is currently considering the report of the Citizens' Assembly. Bishops reiterated key themes from their submission to the Citizens' Assembly, namely: that human life begins at conception; that the life of the unborn baby is equal to that of her/his mother; and, that the right to life is the fundamental human right antecedent to all other human rights.
October is Mission Month - 'Reach Out and Spread the Joy'
The 2017 theme for Mission Month is 'Reach Out and Spread the Joy'. The twofold purpose of the month is to raise awareness about the evangelising work of Irish missionaries abroad, and to raise funds to support their work. World Missions Ireland is part of Pope Francis' official charity for overseas mission and is responsible for coordinating resources and for distributing these equitably on the basis of need. WMI (www.wmi.ie) is hosting a number of initiatives this month to highlight missionary activity: on 8 October Mass for benefactors and returned missionaries, and separately a Kenyan Exhibition, in Saint Patrick's College, Maynooth; National Day of Prayer for Children on 13 October; 'Miles for Mission' walk/run in the Phoenix Park, Dublin on 14 October; seminar 'Maynooth, Ireland and the Far East' in Saint Patrick's College, Maynooth on 20 October; and World Mission Sunday on 22 October next.
The high point of Mission Month is World Mission Sunday. RTÉ will broadcast television and radio Mass at 11.00am on Mission Sunday from its Donnybrook studios which will be celebrated by Archbishop Kieran O'Reilly SMA, chair of the Bishops' Council for Missions.The Mission Sunday collection is one of three Papal collections and has been especially chosen as the means by which we share what we have with our brothers and sisters in need. Donations are collected at these worldwide Masses in support of churches, hospitals, schools and vocations in countries where the Church is new, young or poor. It is also the one Sunday in the year when the generosity of the lay faithful goes directly to help mission parishes overseas and reach out with Jesus' message of hope and love.
Bishops encourage the faithful to support this year's Mission Sunday collection and other WMI activities.
The human devastation caused by alcohol has been a blight on our society for many years, and one that the Catholic Church has challenged for generations. Since its inception in 1997, the experience of the Irish Bishops' Drugs Initiative (IBDI) at parish level is that alcohol continues to hold a tight grip on our national character. The glamorising of alcohol through advertising, promotions and sponsorship, can adversely affect the behaviour of our young people as well as even thwart well-intentioned public policy.
The IBDI proposes that if the ease of availability of alcohol at our retail checkouts could be curtailed, then there may be a lowering of alcohol related harm to children, families and communities.Bishops urged the Government to expedite the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015. The bill's objectives on price, labelling, advertising and separation of alcohol products are important targets towards reducing alcohol consumption.
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 civil law requirements relating to the Children First Act 2015 which were announced on 2 October by Ms Katherine Zappone TD, Minister for Children & Youth Affairs. Bishops were advised that the remaining provisions of the act will commence on 11 December next. One of the provisions relates to mandatory reporting of suspicions, concerns and allegations of child abuse. The National Board representatives highlighted that mandatory reporting is already a requirement for priests, religious, staff and volunteers ministering in the Catholic Church in Ireland.
World Meeting of Families, 21 – 26 August 2018
Father Timothy Bartlett, Secretary General of the World Meeting of Families 2018, updated bishops on the preparations for next year's faith celebration in Dublin. Father Bartlett highlighted the WMOF2018 programme of preparation; the volunteer drive; and the Icon of the Holy Family:
·WMOF2018 is currently being preceded by a period of catechesis/faith education for use in parishes. The programme, entitled Amoris: Let's talk Family, Let's be Family!, draws largely from Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), published in April 2016, following the synods on marriage and the family held in 2014 and 2015.
·The specially commissioned WMOF2018 icon of the Holy Family is now travelling to each of the 26 dioceses to encourage reflection and prayer as part of the journey to, and preparation for, WMOF2018. The icon is accompanied by petition boxes, enabling families to write intentions and prayers. Contemplative communities around Ireland will pray for the intentions collected during the coming year.
·Over 1,200 people have signed up as volunteers to be part of next year's celebration of family, but thousands more are needed to join the operational team for this international faith event. For more information see www.worldmeeting2018.ie/volunteers
·Registration for all WMOF2018 events is open via www.worldmeeting2018.ie Pilgrims can now register for the main three-day Congress from 22 – 24 August; for the Festival of Families on Saturday 25 August; and, for the closing Mass on Sunday 26 August.
Bishops discussed the prevailing deadlock in talks amongst the political parties and the consequential threat that this vacuum is posing for the Peace Process. Bishops expressed concern that local political decisions in the areas of education and health are currently being postponed and that this delay is causing hardship in people's lives, with the weakest suffering most. Bishops encouraged political leaders to prioritise the common good over all other concerns in order to inspire hope, once again, in the ability of politics to deliver positive change for our society.
Consultation with young people ahead of Synod 2018
Bishop Donal McKeown, chairman of the Bishops' Commission for Worship, Pastoral Renewal and Faith Development, reported on the research undertaken in response to questions from the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in Rome. The Secretariat is currently preparing for the next meeting of the Synod of Bishops in October 2018. The theme for the October 2018 Synod is Young People, The Faith, and Vocational Discernment. Bishop McKeown's research involved:
-quantitative research - an online series of questions directed to young people which in turn was fed back to dioceses for evaluation; and,
-qualitative research - consultation with various groups, for example, with young people, third level students, priests, teachers, and pastoral workers.
Bishops expressed their gratitude to everyone who took the time to respond to this important survey on the role of young people in the life of the Church.
Trócaire Romero Awards:On the occasion of the centenary of his birth, bishops prayed to Blessed Oscar Romero to intercede to protect those who, at great personal cost, dedicate their lives promoting Gospel values in oftentimes hostile environments. Trócaire, the overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Ireland, has launched the 'Trócaire Romero Awards' after the late Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated in 1980 in San Salvador while celebrating Mass a day after pleading with soldiers to stop killing civilians. Archbishop Romero was beatified in 2015 as a martyr of the Church. The aim of the 'Trócaire Romero Awards' is to celebrate people who work for global justice at home and abroad. Bishop William Crean, chairman of Trócaire, led a special liturgy which included the blessing of a small garden, within Saint Patrick's College, Maynooth, in honour of Blessed Romero.
Church collection in response to food crisis in East Africa: Bishops thanked the people of Ireland for their very generous contributions to the church collection which was taken up across the country in July, in response to the food crisis in South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. Whilst the final figure is not yet known, it is expected to amount to about €4.5m.
Myanmar: Bishops noted that Trócaire has made an initial contribution of €30,000 to Caritas Bangladesh in support of its humanitarian work among the more than 400,000 Rohingya people who have crossed the Border from Myanmar in recent weeks as a result of violence and insecurity. Further funds will be made available to Caritas Bangladesh in the coming weeks.
Irish Chaplaincy in Britain
On 24 September Bishop John Kirby, chair of the Bishops' Council for Emigrants, celebrated Mass to mark 60 years of the Irish Chaplaincy in Britain and its pastoral support to Irish emigrants in three key outreach areas: the Seniors' Project, which looks after the elderly Irish; the Travellers' Project; and with prisoners. The Mass was celebrated in the Sacred Heart Church, Kilburn, a parish with a long association with Irish people in Britain. Bishops joined with Bishop Kirby in acknowledging, with gratitude, the Chaplaincy's sterling work, over the years, which has been led by many Irish priests, religious sisters and lay people. Today, the Chaplaincy, with its close links to Ireland's embassy in London, pastorally serves the Irish community under the dedicated leadership of Mr Eddie Gilmore and his team.
A Mass of welcome was celebrated in the College Chapel of Saint Patrick's College, Maynooth, in honour of the new Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, His Excellency Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo. Archbishop Okolo expressed his warm appreciation to the positive contribution of Irish missionaries who were so influential in nurturing his own faith and education from a young age, as well as his ministry. The Mass was concelebrated by bishops and priests, and the congregation included staff from the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference, the national seminary and some members of the councils and agencies of the Conference.
Bishops welcomed Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ, Bishop of Raphoe, to his first plenary meeting in Maynooth of the Bishops' Conference. Bishop McGuckian's episcopal ordination Mass was celebrated in the Cathedral of Saints Eunan and Columba, Letterkenny, on 6 August, the Feast of The Transfiguration of The Lord.
Prayers for deceased staff members
Bishops prayed for the repose of the souls of two exemplary colleagues who worked for the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference. The retired financial controller Ms Anne Young and Ms Catherine (Kate) Jackson, a caseworker with the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas, who passed into eternal life on the 8 July, and 10 September last, respectively.
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444