As part of the Irish Church’s preparation for the World Meeting of Families in 2018, Accord is to review its marriage preparation programmes to take into account the teachings of Amoris Laetitia.
Speaking on St Valentine’s Day, Accord president Bishop Denis Nulty noted that in Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis urges the universal Church to make more of St Valentine’s Day.
In his apostolic exhortation on marriage and the family, the Pope
highlights how, “In some countries, commercial interests are quicker to
see the potential of this celebration than we in the Church.”
Recalling the recent ad limina visit by the Irish bishops to the
Vatican, Bishop Nulty said the Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity,
Family and Life, Dubliner Cardinal Kevin Farrell, had asked about the
length of marriage preparation courses offered by Accord and what the
formation programme actually entailed.
It is 55 years since the first Accord centre opened in Belfast.
“Accord in our work and on our logo have the heart, have love at the
centre of all we do,” Bishop Nulty said, and he highlighted that the
World Meeting of Families has been given the theme ‘Celebrate the Joy of
He added that Pope Francis is challenging us to see a preparation
course as merely one part of a programme that ultimately needs to be
At the annual blessing of an engaged couple at the relics of St
Valentine in the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on Whitefriar Street
in Dublin, Bishop Nulty blessed the engagement ring of Carol Dignam
from Kilcock, Co Kildare, which was given to her by fiancé Tim Boylan
from Foxrock in Dublin. The couple hope to marry next year.
The Bishop also gave a blessing and best wishes to all couples
preparing for marriage and published a special prayer for those availing
of Accord’s counselling services.
“This annual blessing ceremony allows us in Accord to reflect on the
valuable contribution marriage and stable families offer the wider
society,” Dr Nulty explained, and he encouraged people to give
generously to the annual Dublin Diocesan Collection for Accord which
will take place this coming weekend.
He stressed that because of the importance of the family for the life
and well-being of society, it was “essential that both Accord and the
State continue to work with each other to provide the necessary supports
to strengthen marriage and the family.
“Investment in children and young people and in the development of
responsible, respectful, caring and loving relationships between
couples, whether parents or not, and between parents and their children,
is a social responsibility and it makes good economic sense.”
He also highlighted that the voluntary nature of much of the work of
Accord means that the Government grant aid provided to it can purchase a
greater number of counselling sessions than if they were provided on a
fully commercial basis or directly provided by the State.
The Bishop unveiled new figures for Accord which show that the number
of people attending a sacramental marriage preparation course with the
Catholic marriage care agency rose again last year.
A total of 17,108 people attended the course in 2016, up 8.5 per
cent from 15,774 in the previous year. The figures cover the island of
Accord Dublin shows an increase of 15.6 per cent; the 35-centre group
(i.e. those centres in the RoI but outside of Dublin) show an increase
of 7.9 per cent, while Accord Northern Ireland shows an increase of 5
per cent over the previous year.
There are approximately 900 Accord people in centres all across the
country who are the face of the service in the counselling room taking a
counselling session; in a parish centre or local hotel delivering a
marriage preparation course; in a classroom or school assembly hall
presenting a Schools’ Relationships and Education programme.
The new Accord figures also show that the agency dealt with 5,523 counselling cases last year.
There has been a year on year drop in the number of couples seeking
counselling since 2012, the height of the recession, when Accord dealt
with 6,462 counselling cases. That year, the agency provided 42,191
counselling sessions over 50,629 hours.
The most prevalent problem cited by couples experiencing difficulties
in their relationships relate to communication (60 per cent), followed
by anxiety and stress (58 per cent).
Friction over internet or social media use (19 per cent) and texting
(22 per cent) were identified by an increasing number of couples as
contributing to their difficulties, up from 17 per cent and 21 per
cent respectively last year.
Referring to the “huge damage” technology can have on relationships,
Dr Nulty said that in the past texts, tweets, Snapchat, Instagram and
Whatsapp were not even considerations in counselling.
“Today they contribute hugely to the fractured narrative that unfolds
in many counselling sessions. What was said in that tweet; the picture
that was shared on social media; the reactive immediate response on
Snapchat can do enormous damage to a relationship, to trust and to the
Accord, he said, was not there to judge, but to “gently move the
relationship and the conversation to a less threatening and tense