• Referendum on Children Rights on 10 November 2012
• Day for Life in Ireland – ‘Choose Life!’
• Safeguarding of Children
• Reflections on the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Ireland
• Year of Faith 2012 – 2013
• Share the Good News
• Catholic education at third level
• General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome
• Budget 2013
• Legislation on prostitution and human trafficking in the North and South
• October is Mission Month – ‘Growing in Communion’
• Conflict in the Middle East
REFERENDUM ON CHILDRENS RIGHTS ON 10 NOVEMBER 2012
Bishops discussed the wording of the proposed Thirty-First Amendment of the Constitution, Article 42A, on Children. Given the importance of the issues involved for the future of both the family and children, bishops will issue a considered statement on this matter in the coming weeks.
DAY FOR LIFE AND MONTH OF PRAYER INITIATIVE – CHOOSE LIFE!
Bishops discussed the sacredness of human life and announced that the annual Day for Life in Ireland this year, on Sunday 7 October, will mark the beginning of a special month of prayer dedicated to theme ‘Choose Life!’
Parishes and individuals will be invited to pray a special ‘Prayer for the Child in the Womb’ during Masses throughout the month of prayer which ends on the Feast of All the Saints of Ireland on 6 November next. The prayer asks us to open our hearts to welcome every child as a unique and wonderful gift, and to help those who make our laws to uphold the uniqueness and sacredness of every human life from the moment of conception to natural death.
In addition to the prayer a special pastoral message entitled ‘Choose Life!’ will be promoted in all 1,360 parishes of Ireland, North and South. This message will highlight the equal right to life of a mother and the child in her womb, and the right of each to be treated as individual persons. This positive message will also affirm that the child in the womb is not a potential life, but a human life with potential.
Bishops expressed concern about the widespread misinformation about the implications of the December 2010 judgement of the European Court of Human Rights A,B & C vs Ireland. The Irish Government is under no obligation to legislate for abortion because of the ruling of the European Court. On the contrary the Government is free to respond by seeking full protection in Irish law for the right to life of the baby in the womb. This could be done while ensuring that women in pregnancy continue to receive every treatment necessary to safeguard their lives.
SAFEGUARDING OF CHILDREN
Mr John Morgan Chairman, and Mr Ian Elliott, Chief Executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, briefed the Bishops’ Conference on the work undertaken by the National Board over the last number of months. Following the publication of the second tranche of reviews on 5 September, the National Board Chair and Chairman met with the Minister for Children & Youth Affairs, Ms Frances Fitzgerald TD.
Mr Elliott also advised the bishops that preparation for the National Board for Safeguarding Children’s third tranche of reviews has begun and will involve eight dioceses and religious congregations. Bishops were advised that others have indicated their desire to have a safeguarding review, and these will be undertaken in due course.
REFLECTIONS ON THE 50TH INTERNATIONAL EUCHARISTIC CONGRESS IN IRELAND
Bishops thanked Father Kevin Doran, Secretary General of the International Eucharistic Congress 2012, and his team, for the work involved in the four-year planning and successful hosting of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin from 10 – 17 June. Bishops also expressed their gratitude to Father Brendan Leahy for his key role in arranging the International Theology Symposium which was held in Maynooth on 6 – 9 June last and preceded the Congress.
Bishops also thanked the thousands of Congress pilgrims for their support and participation in liturgical celebrations in churches in Dublin and in parishes throughout the country.
In addition to the positive social environment created by the International Eucharistic Congress in both venues of the RDS and Croke Park, the feedback from pilgrims to date indicates a great appreciation that this special Church event took place in Ireland at this time. Many people expressed gratitude for the opportunities provided by this faith enriching experience especially as offered by the daily celebration of the Eucharist; the stimulating and popular workshops; and, the powerful testimonies of the various witnesses and speakers who took part in this significant Church gathering.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin and President of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress 2012, celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving in Dublin last Saturday for nearly 1,000 Congress volunteers. There was a great spirit of enthusiasm expressed by the volunteers for the continued renewal of the Church in Ireland at this time. The forthcoming Year of Faith will build on the momentum of the International Eucharistic Congress in Ireland.
YEAR OF FAITH 2012-2013
Bishops agreed a number of initiatives to be undertaken during the Year of Faith. The Year of Faith in the Catholic Church will run from 11 October 2012 to 24 November 2013 and is a world-wide celebration. In his Apostolic Letter Porta fidei the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI speaks of the need “to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ” and it is for this reason that he called the Year of Faith. The Year of Faith also coincides with two anniversaries: the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of Vatican Council II and the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The Year of Faith aims, above all, to support the faith of believers who, in their daily trials, never cease to entrust to entrust their lives to the Lord Jesus, with courage and conviction. A key objective of the Year of Faith is to see the Catechism more widely distributed and its contents made better known. Bishops asked the faithful to take up this challenge here in Ireland. On page after page what is presented is not theory, but an encounter with a Person who lives within the Church.
The Year of Faith invites all of us to rediscover the life of Christ as set forth in the Catechism. We are encouraged to know the reasons for the faith we have in a culture which sometimes presents the very basis of faith as irrational. The faithful are invited to understand, celebrate, live and pray our faith as expressed in the ‘four pillars’ around which the Catechism is framed: the profession of faith, the liturgy and the sacraments, life in Christ and prayer.
SHARE THE GOOD NEWS
Central to the Year of Faith will be the promotion of Share the Good News, the national directory for catechesis in Ireland The directory provided the basis for two participative workshops at the recent National Pastoral Conference in Athlone and it is forming the basis for faith community development in six dioceses and scores of parishes around Ireland today.
As a key resource for the development of faith and the faith community in Ireland, Share the Good News offers a route for renewal in the Church. The Implementation Committee for the directory is currently working on distillations of the text itself so that more parishes and faith communities can gain access to this valuable resource. In addition, the website www.adultfaith.ie is being developed to host new developments across the Church in Ireland for the forthcoming Year of Faith.
Share the Good News provides the lens through which the Year of Faith is being promoted in Ireland. Alongside other adult faith and catechetical documents being promoted by the Bishops’ Conference, the directory provides sign posts for reflection, dialogue and action. The Implementation Committee will seek to enhance the Year of Faith and to contribute to a renewed conversion to the Lord Jesus and to the rediscovery of faith.
CATHOLIC EDUCATION AT THIRD LEVEL
Bishops discussed the future of Catholic third-level colleges in the context of proposed changes to the structure of tertiary education. While acknowledging the need for change they affirmed the unique importance of Catholic Institutes of Higher Education in supporting the common good through the provision of high-quality educational pathways and through an on-going dialogue between faith and culture. Such colleges make a notable academic contribution to Irish society through teaching and research in areas such as the humanities, teacher education, theology, spirituality, pastoral care and seminary formation.
Bishops note the recent report from the Department of Education and Skills concerning Initial Teacher Education. They have established a committee under the auspices of the Catholic Education Service to review developments in Catholic third-level teacher education including the provision of suitably qualified teachers for Catholic schools at primary and post primary levels, the development of the curriculum in religious education and support for adult religious education. Given the commitment of the State to diversity in education and in particular to the provision of denominational education at primary and secondary level there is a strong public interest in the provision of appropriate training for teachers in these institutions.
Bishops welcome the statement in the report that the “Review Panel respected the ethos of all HEIs in its deliberations and was aware, in particular, of the denominational governance of Colleges of Education. The Panel did not undertake to make any recommendations in relation to denominational matters”. It is clear from the report that issues of governance in the Institutes/Centres are under consideration. In this context we wish to make our position clear. The Catholic third–level sector continues to have an essential contribution to make to the common educational good in our society within the wider higher education sector. In particular they look forward to a continuing dynamic role for denominational Colleges of Education into the future whereby their autonomy is respected and appropriate funding is provided.
THIRTEENTH ORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS ON THE THEME: ‘THE NEW EVANGELISATION FOR THE TRANSMISSION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH’
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and Bishop Kieran O’Reilly, Bishop of Killaloe, will represent the Irish Bishops’ Conference at the thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which takes place in the Vatican from 7 to 28 October 2012. This year’s theme is: ‘The New Evangelisation for the Transmission of the Christian Faith’.
The Synod will reflect upon the transmission of Christian faith, one of the great challenges facing the Church, and it will be examined in the context of the new evangelisation. New evangelisation is an expression of the internal dynamism of Christianity which wishes to make men and women of good will know the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of the mystery of God revealed in Jesus Christ; it is not a weary response to the crisis of faith and the challenges facing the Church in the modern world. The work of new evangelisation aims at a renewal of the ordinary pastoral activity of particular Churches while seeking, at the same time, to engage with people who have left the Church.
The Synod will open with the views of episcopal conferences which will analyse the need for new tools and new forms of expression to make the Word of God more understandable in our contemporary lives. The Synod will hopefully be an opportunity to discuss and compare points of view and practical experiences, to be shared in order to provide encouragement to leaders and particular Churches.
Of particular focus for the Synod will be the lack of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life at the present time, an issue discussed at length by the bishops at their meeting. The work of the Synod will be enriched by its association with the Universal Year of Faith which begins on 11 October next.
The Bishops’ Department of Social & International Affairs reported to the Bishops’ Conference on the forthcoming ‘Budget 2013’which will be debated by the Oireachtas in December. Notwithstanding the current difficult economic circumstances it is vital to ensure that principles of solidarity and fairness are rigorously applied in the distribution of the burden of adjustments and cuts.
Bishops shared and discussed their experiences of communities throughout the country who are facing austerity measures. The lives of families and individuals have been placed under enormous pressure as they suffer unemployment, mortgage arrears, high levels of debt and emigration. Organisations such as the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul have seen an increase in calls for assistance of up to 80% in some areas since 2009. Many are experiencing financial hardship for the first time and previously they would have supported the Society through donations.
Bishops call for a new long-term vision which would protect the rights of all members of our society to live with dignity at every stage of their lives.
Overseas Development Aid
Financial security in Ireland cannot be secured at the expense of those living in absolute poverty in developing countries. In 2000 Ireland signed up to the Millennium Development Goals, committing itself to allocating 0.7% of Gross National Income to Overseas Development Aid (ODA) by 2015. Considerable progress was made with ODA reaching its highest level of 0.59% in 2008. Since then, however, our level of ODA has dropped to 0.51%. It is vital that, in budget 2013, we maintain our current level of ODA and continue to make visible progress towards our commitment of 0.7% GNI/ODA in recognition of the rights of poorest and most vulnerable throughout the world to a decent standard of living.
On 1 January 2013 Ireland will take over the Presidency of the European Union. This Presidency provides a crucial opportunity to show leadership in terms of our commitment to the protection of the most vulnerable, in Ireland and throughout the world.
LEGISLATION ON PROSTITUTION AND HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN THE NORTH AND SOUTH
Bishops support the examination of legislation on prostitution and human trafficking taking place in both jurisdictions on the island, following the consultation launched by Mr Alan Shatter TD, Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence and the Private Member’s Bill proposed by Lord Maurice Morrow MLA in Northern Ireland.
Bishops emphasised the need for legislation in both jurisdictions to reflect our values, particularly our commitment to the protection of the human dignity of all members of our society. All prostitution, even in cases where the individual has not been a victim of trafficking, reduces the human being to a commodity that can be bought and sold. It is damaging for those affected and for society as a whole.
Criminalisation of the purchase of ‘sexual services’ would ensure that An Garda Síochána and the PSNI are empowered to take action to stop and prevent the exploitation of vulnerable people through prostitution. In addition, cooperation across Government departments is required in order to develop targeted ‘exit strategies’ to assist and support people wishing to leave prostitution, including access to health care, education and employment. Bishops noted the effective cross-border cooperation to date in this area and underlined the need for this to be supported in any future legislation.
OCTOBER IS MISSION MONTH – ‘GROWING IN COMMUNION’
Bishops thanked all those who generously supported the Church’s missionaries over the years. Irish missionaries work in some of the world’s poorest countries and under very difficult living conditions.
Mission Sunday collection
While appreciating the difficult financial circumstances currently facing Irish people, bishops ask the faithful to support the Church’s missionaries during the forthcoming Mission Sunday collection on 21 October. This collection takes place in churches throughout Ireland and the world on this date. The Mission Sunday collection is about supporting young churches and missionaries in meeting the spiritual and material needs of men, women and children in poorer countries overseas. Over €2 million was raised during the national Mission Sunday collection in 2011. This money was used to fund a range of projects in Mission Dioceses in 16 countries in Africa and Asia, including India, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Sudan. The theme for Mission Sunday 2012 is ‘Growing in Communion’. People are encouraged to express missionary spirit at home by welcoming Ireland’s increasingly diverse ethnic communities.
For 2012 the Mission Sunday poster features Ms Aisling Foley of Viatores Christi. Viatores Christi recruits, trains, and sends lay missionary volunteers to work overseas in areas of need. Viatores Christi also aims to respond to needs overseas by giving people an opportunity to share their lives (profession/trade skills) and witness to their faith in another culture.
Society of Missionary Children promoting National Day of Prayer on 12 October
The Society of Missionary Children, which is 169 years old and active for 159 years in Ireland, educates children about their part in the Church’s mission work. It promotes the unique concept of ‘Children Helping Children’ by encouraging children to share with and pray for children growing up in poorer countries. The Society of Missionary Children has a presence in 1,100 national schools throughout the island of Ireland – about one third of the total number of primary schools in the country. The fundraising efforts of these schools allowed the Society to support 20,000 children in the mission lands in 2011. The National Day of Prayer is organised on the second Friday each October to unite Irish children in prayer with their brothers and sisters in mission lands.
In 2013 the Society will celebrate the 170th anniversary of its founding. Bishops ask parish prayer groups to celebrate the National Day of Prayer with children during October.
CONFLICT IN THE MIDDLE EAST
In the aftermath of the successful apostolic trip to Lebanon by Pope Benedict XVI, bishops asked that the faithful remember in their prayers the Christians of the Middle East, echoing the Holy Father’s appeal to pray for workable solutions respecting the dignity, the rights and the religion of every human person. Bishops expressed concern over the continuing violence in Syria, Egypt and Iraq in which tens of thousands of people have been killed and over two hundred and fifty thousand more forced to leave the country as refugees.
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office, Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678