The issues covered at the December 2006 General Meeting of the Irish Episcopal Conference included Trcaire Lenten Campaign, Supporting Irish Abroad, Education in Northern Ireland, Permanent Diaconate.

Issues

  • Trcaire Lenten Campaign
  • Supporting Irish Abroad (SIA) 2006 campaign Irish in Isolation
  • Education in Northern Ireland
  • Road safety A Duty of Care A Prayer for Motorists
  • All Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution
  • Permanent Diaconate
  • Appointments to the National Marriage Appeal Tribunal
  • Fifth World Meeting of Families
  • Ad Limina visit to the Holy See in October
Trcaire Lenten Campaign :

The 2006 Trcaire Lenten Campaign focuses on Trcaire’s work in Nicaragua and on the theme, the Rights of Children. The bishops in their dioceses are encouraging people to support the campaign and resource information is available on www.trocaire.org

Supporting Irish Abroad (SIA) 2006 campaign Irish in Isolation

The Chairman of the Bishops Commission for Emigrants, Bishop Samus Hegarty, highlighted the theme of the Supporting Irish Abroad (SIA) campaign for 2006. Bishop Hegarty said: The Bishops SIA campaign has had a three year focus. In 2004, we specifically targeted the elderly Irish living in London, while last year the emphasis of our pastoral support was on the undocumented Irish mostly young people – living in the Unites States. I thank my brother bishops in the US for their continued support and I hope and pray for an outcome that opens a path to legalisation for the undocumented Irish living there. The target audience for this years campaign is different. With St Patricks Day on Friday, it is timely to bring to your attention the plight of many Irish people who live in isolation, many of whom have no family of their own. Therefore this years campaign aims to encourage Irish people, living at home, to communicate with relatives or friends abroad whose traditional point of contact may have ceased. Many of us may have elderly relatives abroad but who now find it hard to travel. As they grow older the risk of isolation grows. While in times past a brother or sister may have maintained communication with them, now that responsibility falls to a new generation, perhaps to a nephew or a niece.

For this year we ask you to join in our effort by sending a letter, making a phone call or in this era of cheaper travel, you might consider making a visit to the person in question. I wish to commend the work of our many emigrant chaplaincies and emigrant service providers whose outstanding efforts, in their various outreaches, is a testament to the Mission of the Church. I welcome also the commitment of Government to support emigrants as demonstrated in its recent decision to establish a dedicated emigrants service via the Unit for the Irish Abroad at the Department of Foreign Affairs. May the Virgin Mother, who together with her Blessed Son knew the pain of emigration and exile, help us to understand the experience, and very often the trauma, of those who are compelled to live far from their homeland, and teach us to serve them in their necessities, truly accepting them as brothers and sisters, so that todays migrations may be considered a call, albeit a mysterious one, to the Kingdom of God, which is already present in His Church, its beginning (cf. LG 9)(1), and instrument of Providence to further the unity of the human family and peace (2). 1. Vatican Council II, Lumen Gentium, Paragraph 92. Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi Vatican City 2004, Paragraph 104 See www.catholiccommunications.ie/sia for more details on the SIA 2006 campaign.

Education in Northern Ireland :

The Northern Bishops stated that there was great disquiet among governors, teachers and parents at the present uncertainty in regard to many aspects of the proposals concerning post primary education. The Bishops had stated in their submission to the Review of Post Primary Education that there would be educational chaos in 2008 if there were not clarity in regard to admissions criteria, pupil profile and the curriculum. Clarity is awaited. Representatives of the Bishops and Religious, as Trustees of the Catholic Schools, both maintained and voluntary grammar, had met with Ms Angela Smith, the Minister of Education, to express the serious concerns of the Trustees in regard to the proposed powers of the Single Education Authority for the employment of teachers and the planning of school provision. In the view of the Trustees this would diminish or indeed dilute the ethos of the Catholic schools. The Minister assured the Trustees that there was no intention to diminish or dilute ethos and she recognised the proven link between ethos and learning outcomes. The Trustees will be entering into discussions with the Department of Education on these crucial matters. The Secretary of State also gave an assurance to guard ethos when announcing last week the setting up of a Strategic Review of Education to examine in particular the strategic planning and organisation of the school estate. Secretary of State Hain stated that integrated education will be at the heart of this review which will also consider how we manage the other sectors in the system. Does this statement not put the other sectors such as the Catholic schools at a clear disadvantage? The question must be asked: How does this review sit with the establishment of the Single Education Authority? For all involved in education these are worrying and challenging times. The challenges must be met by the Trustees, Bishops and Religious, who hold the Catholic schools in trust for the Catholic Community.

Road safety A Duty of Care Prayer for Motorists :

The Bishops Committee on Family and Children discussed the issue of road safety in Ireland and prayed for those who have suffered road related injury or loss of life, and for their families. The Bishops stated: Implementing road safety policy should be considered a social justice priority by everybody. In 2005, 399 road users were killed in the Republic and 110 were killed in Northern Ireland. Many of these deaths could have been avoided. Road traffic collisions are one of a number of preventable causes of deaths and serious injury in our community. Many lives are needlessly lost and many people suffer unnecessary permanent life changing injuries on our roads every year. As individuals, we have an obligation to exercise a real duty of care to other road users by improving our driver behaviour, and at a public policy level, this improved behaviour must be matched with effective strategic planning and greater resourcing. In developed countries, policies are put in place in order to reduce such needless loss of life and serious injury.

Irelands road safety policy is summarised by the four Es: Education, Engineering, Enforcement and Evaluation, along with a sustained programme of communication and consultation with the community. One of the successful hallmarks of a road safety policy is when it is underpinned by a general recognition that we owe a duty of care to ourselves and to one another. Care for one another in the community is a basic value which travels across different cultures and different religions. It is this duty of care that is then shared by the State where it steps in to act for the common good. Essentially an effective road safety policy is another example of social justice in practice in our busy modern democracies. Prayer for motorists before driving:
Let us pray, ‘Before I take my place behind the wheelI pray, O Sacred Heart – Guide me on my way. Virgin Mary, Morning Star, from every danger guide this car.Thou dear Lord who gave it to enjoy,Grant that its purpose be to save and not destroy. AMEN

All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution:

The Bishops Department of Pastoral Care noted and welcomed the decision by the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution, as contained in its Tenth Progress Report: The Family, not to extend the definition of the family based on marriage as contained in Article 41 of Bunreacht na hireann. For a copy of the March 2005 joint submission by the Committee on the Family of the Irish Episcopal Conference and the Office for Public Affairs of the Archdiocese of Dublin, to the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution on the Review of Constitutional Provisions relating to the Family, please see: www.catholicommunications.ie under the Pastoral Letters/Documents link.

Permanent Diaconate:

A Permanent Diaconate Working Party (PDWP) has been established by the Conference with a view to preparing for the introduction of the permanent diaconate in those dioceses in Ireland where it will be decided to have permanent deacons. Firstly the PDWP will arrange a catechesis (information sessions) for priests and people. Secondly it will introduce, implement and oversee elaboration of norms for selection and formation of candidates for the permanent diaconate in accordance with the General Norms as issued by the Holy See in 1998 and the particular norms for Ireland that were approved in July 2005. Thirdly, the PDWP will prepare for the implementation of the norms prepared and approved by the Holy See concerning the ministry and life of the permanent deacons.

Appointments to the National Marriage Appeal Tribunal:

There are four Regional Marriage Tribunals of first instance in Ireland and these are based in Armagh, Dublin, Cork and Galway. Marriage Tribunals make judgements on the validity or otherwise of marriages. The sole Appeal Tribunal is the National Marriage Appeal Tribunal which is based in St Patricks College Maynooth, and its purpose is to hear cases on appeal from each of the four Regional Tribunals. The Bishops Conference approved new appointments to the National Marriage Appeal Tribunal bringing the total number of judges employed by it to 13. These appointments will have the effect of reducing the time required to process appeals to this tribunal.

Fifth World Meeting of Families:

Pope Benedict XVI will preside at the Fifth World Meeting of Families to be held in Valencia, Spain from July 1st-9th 2006. Inaugurated in Rome by Pope John Paul II in 1994 (UN International Year of the Family), the World Meeting of Families takes place every three years, bringing families from across the world together to pray, learn and reflect on the family as the domestic church. This years theme is: The Transmission of Faith in the Family. The programme includes: – A theological-pastoral congress targeting families, youth and seniors in separate sessions (July 4th-7th); – An international family fair, with exhibits, a forum for exchanging family experience and recreational activities that encourage family leisure time (July 1st-7th); – A festive meeting that will include family stories, musical and dramatic presentations from all over the world and a firework’s display (July 8th); – Sunday Eucharist presided over by Pope Benedict XVI, during which couples celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary will renew their marriage vows. The Chair of the Department of Pastoral Care of the Irish Episcopal Conference, Bishop Christopher Jones said: The theme of the World Meeting of Families this year: Transmission of faith in the family, perfectly complements the issues addressed in the pastoral letter for Education in Faith Sunday on 5 February last, Nurturing Our Childrens Faith. The pastoral says: Our experience tells us that the faith of children is best nurtured when home, school and parish work together in partnership. Firstly and most importantly, children learn about faith in the home, while it goes on to say: Their faith is supported in the school by the hard work of teachers and chaplains, and by both priests and people in the wider parish community. While the Irish Bishops 2004 seminar Supporting Marriage & Family Life, which was organised to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the UN Year of the Family, addressed external challenges facing families, the theme of Valencia 2006 Transmission of Faith in the Family addresses a key initially internal aspect of family life: faith. Bishop Jones reiterated: The Church believes passionately in marriage as the source and strength of family life, and indeed of the life of society. Unlike any other relationship, marriage makes a unique contribution to the common good of society, especially through the procreation and education of children for life. The Church is not, and can never be, found wanting in its support for marriage and family life. The deadline for registration for the 2006 World Meeting of Families is 30 April next. Interested families can contact Bishop Jones or their local diocese by 31 March. Bishop Jones will lead a delegation of families to Valencia, from Sligo, for the World Meeting. Further information, including registration details, is available on www.emf2006.org

Ad Limina Apostolorum visit to the Holy See:

in October The next ad limina visit by Irish Bishops to the Holy See will take place between the 16 30 of October next. The last such visit took place in 1999. The ad limina visit is designed to celebrate and strengthen the bishops communion with the universal Church and with the successor of Peter, Pope Benedict XVI. The visit will involve a series of meetings that combine prayer, pastoral planning and personal conversations with the Holy Father. All Bishops charged with the leadership of a diocese are required to make an ad limina visit every five years. The visit also serves as a reminder of a local Bishops wider role, in communion with the bishops of the world. The Bishops visit in October is known historically as the ad limina Apostolorum visit – or to the threshold of the Apostles – a reference to the pilgrimage to the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul that the bishops are required to make. Ends

Further information: Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678) Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)