Europe today is a culture in which God appears to be "silent and unmissed in the lives of many" the Irish bishops warn in a new pastoral letter issued March 29.
The 12-page document, "Repent and Believe the Good News," deals with the importance of repentance for the Irish Catholic Church.
In their discussion of the European context in which the Irish church is forging its path, the bishops said that today there are "many spheres of life in which even believers rarely recognize the relevance of the Gospel."
They reiterated Pope Benedict XVI's question of whether the West, "the heartlands of Christianity," is tired of its faith, bored by its history and culture, and no longer wishes to know faith in Jesus Christ.
Explaining their reason for promoting repentance, they say the reflection builds on the summons to renewal made by Pope Benedict to the Catholics of Ireland in his 2010 pastoral letter. It is also a motif emphasized in the summary of the findings of the apostolic visitation in Ireland; that summary was released in mid-March.
Acknowledging that "None of us remains unaffected by our culture," the pastoral reflection states that it "takes a real effort in a busy and noisy world to ask the fundamental questions about what our lives mean and where they are leading" and to make the space to get priorities right.
Welcoming the publication of the letter, the primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh, Northern Ireland, said in a statement that repentance was the only path to real renewal for Ireland and the church.
He urged the faithful to resist the temptation to put convenience, celebrity, domination, blindness, dishonesty, pride or any other ambition, craving or comfort in the place of God.
Referring to the preparations being made for the forthcoming International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin June 10-17, Cardinal Brady suggested Catholics should receive the sacrament of reconciliation and renew the practice of making the sign of the cross as they pass a church "in acknowledgment of the real presence in the Eucharist."