A Athair Ró Naofa, Ba mhaith liom buíochas a gabháil leat as ucht an cuireadh chuig an Suí Naofa agus an fáilte a thug tú dúinn le linn an cuairt seo Ad Limina Apostolorum.
Most Holy Father, Thank you for
your invitation to the Holy See for our visit 'ad limina apostolorum',
and for your warm welcome here today.
On behalf of the Irish Episcopal
Conference, I offer sincere thanks to you and to those in the
dicasteries of the Roman Curia who have engaged with us so positively
this week in an open and constructive dialogue.
It is very special for us to have this opportunity to meet and have a discussion with you.
Holy Father, we bring you warm greetings of affection from the Catholic
people of Ireland and thank you for the powerful witness you are giving
to the world - and especially for your emphasis on mercy for those who
are on the peripheries of Church and society.
In Ireland in
recent years, despite enormous economic turmoil and hardship, the Irish
people have remained generous in the works of mercy towards those who
are often overlooked in our fast-paced society - including the poorest
and most defenceless. In this regard the Bishops of Ireland continue to
promote the dignity of the life of the unborn, as well as that of the
elderly, the sick and all who are vulnerable at any stage of their
So much has changed for Church and society in Ireland
in the ten years since our last 'ad limina' visit in 2006. Since then
we have been making determined efforts to safeguard children and
vulnerable persons from abuse. I assure you that it remains a priority
of the Church in Ireland to acknowledge and learn from the past, and
persevere in our efforts to bring healing to all those affected by the
sinful and criminal acts of abuse.
Holy Father, your personal
outreach to survivors of abuse is an inspiration for us as we continue
to travel the path of penitence, reparation, healing and renewal. The
publication this morning in Belfast of Sir Anthony Hart's Report into
Historical Institutional Abuse in Northern Ireland reminds us that much
work remains to be undertaken in this regard.
We thank you for
honouring Ireland with the privilege of hosting the Ninth World Meeting
of Families in Dublin, August 2018. We look back with joy to June 2012
when the Fiftieth International Eucharistic Congress took place in
Ireland, with the theme ‘Communion with Christ and with One Another’.
That was a joyful and grace-filled occasion for us.
Eucharistic Congress, we see the World Meeting of Families as much more
than a 'once-off' event. We look to it, rather, as a graced
opportunity, a process by which we can celebrate and explore further the
riches of the Church's 'Gospel of the Family'. It shall be a catalyst
for reflecting on the challenging pastoral manifesto you have set out
for the universal church in your post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation
We take this opportunity to repeat our
invitation to you to visit us in August 2018 - we promise you, as we say
in Ireland, 'céad míle fáilte' - one hundred thousand welcomes!
The pastoral care of marriage and the family remains a priority for us.
In spite of various social changes and challenges, the ethic of family
life remains strong in Ireland. As pastors, we meet many different
family situations and we admire the high ideals which mothers and
fathers have for their children. We also recognise the critical
importance of the family to handing on of the faith, to the life of our
parishes and as the fundamental building block for a safe and stable
We are therefore committed to ensuring that our Catholic
centres of education assist parents and families and are places of
dialogue and encounter with the 'Joy of the Gospel' of Jesus Christ. We
continue to hold the view that the presence of Catholic schools
enhances, rather than undermines, true diversity and pluralism in the
provision of education.
During our 'ad limina' visit we have been
reflecting on vocations and on the well-being and ministry of our
priests and religious. In today's culture many people struggle to
comprehend how anyone can be called to a life of service to God in these
ways. We are working on how to help foster a culture of vocation in
Ireland, and on how best our seminarians can be adequately formed for
service as priests in contemporary Ireland.
The well-being of our
priests is dear to all of us bishops. We are aware that declining
numbers of priests, their increased workload and ever more challenging
pastoral situations has taken its toll on them. We thank God today for
their resilience, dedication and generosity, and for the kindness and
support of the faithful. We also thank God for the many shoots of new
growth and renewal that are emerging in parishes and dioceses all over
the country, especially in catechesis, lay involvement and pastoral
outreach to the marginalised.
We are happy to have the ongoing
fraternal support of the leaders of the other Christian Churches in
Ireland. This is particularly important for the nourishment and
protection of the ongoing peace process. Things are politically
uncertain and delicate these days in Northern Ireland where the Stormont
government has collapsed and following the United Kingdom’s referendum
decision to leave the European Union. Please pray for us, because we
need everyone, including our Church, civic and political leaders, to
build bridges of friendship and reconciliation, rather than put up
barriers of division and recrimination.
You often remind us that
the bonds of solidarity must also be extended to those who arrive among
us as refugees and asylum seekers. The Church is rightly concerned
about the thousands of men, women and children seeking refuge in Europe.
We are proud of the humanitarian efforts of Trócaire, the Catholic
Church's overseas development agency, and the merciful work of the Irish
Naval Service which has helped to rescue thousands of refugees from the
waters of the Mediterranean.
Holy Father, we realise that the
future of the Catholic Church in Ireland is likely to be very unlike our
past or even the present. We know that we need to find new ways of
ensuring that the voice of faith is heard, because many people in
Ireland yearn for a reason to hope. There is so much uncertainty around
us - including homelessness, economic hardship, violence on the
streets, a lack of purpose in the lives of many of our gifted young
people, problems with mental health and the awful spectre of suicide.
The Joy of the Gospel needs to be heard today in Ireland, more than
ever. It is a message of hope and positivity about conversion and
starting over, about forgiveness and reconciliation, about the
sacredness of all human life and the wonder of God’s creation, about
marriage, family and solidarity, about charity, truth and justice.
We ask for your prayers, Holy Father, that we can return from our 'ad
limina' visit emboldened by the Joy of the Gospel and more determined to
make it known!
Guímis rath Dé ort agus ar do chuid saothar i gcónaí.
We pray success from God on you and on your work always.