The issues covered at the October 2006 General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference included the Ad Limina visit, Education, Northern Ireland.

Ad Limina pilgrimage to the Holy See, 16th – 30th October 2006

The ad limina pilgrimage by Irish Bishops to the Holy See will take place between the 16th and 30th of this month. All Bishops charged with the leadership of a diocese are required to make an ad limina pilgrimage normally every five years but due to the ill health of the late Pope John Paul II, the last such visit took place in 1999. There are 26 dioceses on the island of Ireland and all diocesan bishops are taking part in this pilgrimage. The ad limina pilgrimage is designed to celebrate and strengthen the bishops communion with the universal Church and with the successor of Peter, Pope Benedict XVI. During the pilgrimage the Bishops will celebrate Mass in the four basilicas of Rome starting with St Peter’s, and also in the basilicas of St Paul’s Outside the Walls, St Mary Major and St John Lateran. The visit will involve a series of meetings that combine prayer, pastoral planning and personal audiences with the Holy Father. The Bishops visit 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. The Irish Bishops 2006 ad limina will involve meetings with the following offices of the Roman Curia:- Congregation for Catholic Education- Congregation for Causes of the Saints- Congregation for Bishops- Congregation for the Clergy- Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments- Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life- Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples- Congregation for Oriental Churches- Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith- Secretariat of State - Pontifical Council for the Family- Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity- Pontifical Council for the Laity- Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace- Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples - Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health and Care Workers- Pontifical Council for Culture- Pontifical Council ‘Cor Unum’- Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church- Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue- Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts- Pontifical Council for Social Communications The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, will also meet the bishops individually and collectively during their ad limina pilgrimage.

Education

The bishops discussed the future of Catholic education. The bishops discussion focused on the development of a comprehensive policy for the ongoing involvement of the Catholic Church in the provision of education in the primary sector. At second level, the issues of sustaining trusteeship and the role of the patron were discussed. The pastoral value and religious importance of chaplains to the daily lives of students, and the contribution that chaplains make to the professional life to third level colleges, was also discussed.

Northern Ireland

The Bishops hoped that there would be a constructive atmosphere at the forthcoming all-party political talks in Scotland next week. The Bishops asked that prayers would be offered by the faithful, and at Mass, for the success of these peace talks. The Bishops warmly welcomed today’s Independent Monitoring Commission report on paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland, which concludes that there is now convincing evidence of the IRA’s commitment to the political path

Meeting in Belfast of the European Justice and Peace Commissions

The Bishops noted with satisfaction the keen interest taken by, and input of, the members of the European Justice and Peace Commissions who attended this conference in September. This was the first time this annual general conference was held in Northern Ireland. Delegates from 24 countries across Europe participated in this five-day event. Feedback from delegates has been positive, especially in their support for initiatives currently underway in the area of ecumenism and local community involvement in peace-building initiatives.

Shootings at Amish School, Pennsylvania

The Bishops offered their prayerful support to the families of the victims of the shootings at the West Nickel Mines Amish School in Lancaster County in Pennsylvania saying: Our prayers are with the families whose children died, with the students who were injured and all those who have been affected by this tragedy. We pray that God will comfort and sustain the community in the difficult days ahead. All human life is a gift and young children are especially precious in the eyes of the Lord. May the Holy Spirit console everyone involved at this time of sadness and pain.