Thursday, November 27, 2008

Winter General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference concludes in Maynooth

The Winter 2008 General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, which took place in Maynooth this week, concluded today [25 November] with a press conference in the Columba Centre, Maynooth.

The following issues were discussed during the Bishops’ meeting:
  • Pope Benedict XVI’s general prayer intentions for December
  • Meeting in Maynooth between members of the Irish Bishops’ Conference and Mr Hans-Gert Pöttering, President of the European Parliament
  • Recent violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Advent and the Sacrament of Reconciliation
  • Report on the 12th Synod of Bishops
  • Year of St Paul
  • Christian values and the World economy
  • Northern Ireland
  • Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in 2012
  • Civil Partnership Bill 2008
  • Year of Vocation and the Year of St Paul
  • Annual Report 2007 and Directory of the Irish Bishops’ Conference
  • Trócaire’s ‘Global Gift’ campaign for 2008
  • 2009 dates for the Standing and General Meetings of the Bishops’ Conference

Pope Benedict XVI’s general prayer intentions for December
That in the face of a spreading culture of violence and death the Church through her apostolic and missionary activity may promote with courage the culture of life.

Mission: That especially in mission countries Christians may show with acts of fraternal love that the Child born in the stable in Bethlehem is the luminous Hope of the world

Meeting in Maynooth between the Irish Bishops’ Conference and Mr Hans-Gert Pöttering, President of the European Parliament

Mr Hans-Gert Pöttering, President of the European Parliament, attended the Bishops’ Conference today and there was an exchange of views on current matters of mutual interest to the Church and the European Union. President Pöttering addressed the recent referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon as well as Ireland’s historic place and contribution to Europe with particular reference to our shared Christian values.

During the discussion, Bishops revisited the key themes of their pastoral reflection Fostering a Community of Values, which was published on 29 May last in advance of the Lisbon Treaty. These themes included:

- Promoting Active Citizenship

- Europe: A Community of Values

- Europe’s Christian Heritage

- What kind of Europe do we want for our children?

Recent violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Bishops expressed solidarity with the people and clergy in the Congo who are suffering due to ongoing violence and asked that the faithful in Ireland pray for peace in the Congo. The Bishops of the Congo issued a statement last week in relation to the violence which has arisen between three groups in their country: Tutsi militia of General Laurent Nkunda, Rwandan Hutu militias who fled after the 1994 genocide, and the Congolese army.

Advent and the Sacrament of Reconciliation

As we approach the season of Advent, the period of preparation for the feast of Christmas, the call to renewal of our Christian life is a central part this preparation. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation (or Penance), we receive the gift of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Its celebration should be an integral part of our preparation for the Feast of the birth of Our Saviour. Bishops strongly encourage the faithful, over the next few weeks, to make time to avail of this gift of God’s love for them which we all receive in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Report on the 12th Synod of Bishops

Cardinal Seán Brady and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin attended as delegates at the 12th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which took place in Rome in October. The theme was: “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church” and its primary focus was on how the word of God may be better received as a life-giving, life-transforming gift for all God’s people.

During the meeting Cardinal Brady and Archbishop Martin shared ideas that had emerged during the Synod, including:

  • the importance of the Word of God being accessible to people, for example, by having a bible in their home or by having a personal bible;
  • finding opportunities, during our busy days, to reflect on a phrase or sentence from God’s word;
  • seeking, in our contemporary technological age, the means by which to communicate the Word, for example, via the internet, mobile phone technology and through television and radio.

Year of St Paul

This year the Universal Church is celebrating a Jubilee Year dedicated to Saint Paul, which runs from 28 June 2008 to 29 June 2009.

One of the main reasons given by Pope Benedict when he proclaimed a special Jubilee Year to mark the birth of St Paul was: “As in early times, today too Christ needs apostles ready to sacrifice themselves. He needs witnesses and martyrs like St Paul.” As one of the greatest missionaries in Church history, Paul’s example calls us to improve our efforts at evangelisation in Ireland.

Following his conversion on the Road to Damascus, prior to which he had actively persecuted Christians, Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles (Rom 11:13), spread the Gospel of Christ on three missionary journeys which took him as far as Rome, the centre of the Roman Empire. After Our Lord himself, no individual’s words have had such an influence on the Christian faith as Paul, whose letters are the earliest Christian documents that we have.

The Year of St Paul is an ideal time for parishes to explore the treasures of these Epistles in Bible study groups and to arrange lectures for the faithful in order that Paul’s writings become more widely known.

The Pauline Year calls us to share Paul’s love for the Church, the body of Christ. It is therefore particularly appropriate that there be a strong ecumenical dimension to our Jubilee Celebrations inspired by the words from the First Letter to the Corinthians: “that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions between you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgement”.

With this in mind, Bishops draw particular attention to the Week of Prayer of Christian Unity and the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul, both of which fall in January, as opportunities to celebrate the life and teaching of the great apostle.

Paul’s work as an apostle is also an inspiration to us as we seek to raise up new apostles in this the Year of Vocation for the Catholic Church in Ireland. His moral teachings remain relevant to us today in the 21st Century. We pray that this special year dedicated to St Paul will be a time of grace when we might come to know Christ and the power of his resurrection (Phil 3:10).

Christian values and the World economy

After a decade in which there seemed to be no limits to our ability to produce and consume from the resources of the Earth, nor to the heights of wealth we could attain, the Western world now faces a period of uncertainty and doubt about the stability of the world economy. The impact of this has been strongly felt in Ireland which, as a small open economy, is particularly susceptible to changes in the global macroeconomic environment.

Finding hope and light in this time of fear and insecurity is possible. The current crisis presents an opportunity to reassess our values and priorities focusing, in particular, on our responsibilities to our fellow human beings and to God’s creation.

As Pope Paul VI warned in his Encyclical Letter Popolorum Progressio: ‘Neither individuals nor nations should regard the possession of more and more goods as the ultimate objective.’ (Popolorum Progressio, 19) The current crisis has clearly demonstrated that a system based purely on the pursuit of profit is not sustainable.

Our response to the challenge presented by the downturn in our economy should be founded on the values of Christian solidarity and respect for the dignity of all human beings. Above all, we should be committed to the protection of the most vulnerable, both here in Ireland and throughout the world. Solidarity with the most vulnerable demands that we moderate our own expectations of what we can take from this Earth. For example, we should also recognise that the consequences of climate change impact disproportionately on the world’s poorest regions.

The route to achieving a just and sustainable world economy lies with promoting values imbued with morality, trust and moderation.

Northern Ireland

Bishops welcomed the announcement last week of the recommencement of meetings of the Northern Ireland Executive and the agreement, by the First and Deputy First Ministers, on how to proceed with the devolution of policing and justice powers.

Bishops highlighted the importance of maintaining this democratic momentum into the future. During these times of difficulty, politicians should continue to show generosity, mutual understanding and commitment to progress.

As Christians around the world will celebrate this Sunday the First Sunday of Advent, Northern Ireland can again shine like a beacon of hope to other divided societies as a role model of hope and peace. Bishops asked that prayers be offered for politicians so that the Holy Spirit may guide them in their decision making.

Separately, in relation to education, Bishops encouraged the politicians to focus on the immediate need for an agreed way forward so that transition from Primary to post primary school can be managed in the interests of all pupils. Bishops encouraged all stakeholders in Catholic education to work together under the guidance of the NI Commission for Catholic Education.

Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in 2012

Bishops discussed the planning requirements for Ireland as a whole, and for Dublin in particular, in advance of the hosting the Eucharistic Congress in the capital in 2012. A nominee from each diocese will be appointed as part of the preparations for this special event.

Civil Partnership Bill 2008

Bishops discussed the Civil Partnership Bill 2008, which was published in June by the Department of Justice, and in particular the Constitutional obligation on the Government to guard the institution of marriage with special care (Art. 41.3.1). Bishops highlighted the benefits which derive from marriage between a man and woman as the fundamental unit of society.

Bishops are examining the bill in detail and its implications for marriage and society.

Year of Vocation and the Year of St Paul

Forthcoming monthly themes for “The Year of Vocation”, which runs until next May are: December, which is dedicated to thanking those in ministry and January, which will promote witness/service with an emphasis on the call of lay people. January will also see a link with the life and writings of St Paul. In February 2009 the focus will be on religious life. See

Annual Report 2007 and Directory of the Irish Bishops’ Conference

The Annual Report 2007 and Directory of the Irish Bishops’ Conference is now available on the homepage of A copy will be sent to all diocesan priests in the country. The report records the pastoral work and collaboration of the people involved with the agencies, commissions and initiatives of the Bishops’ Conference during 2007. The report details the Episcopal responsibilities of each bishop, contact information for the bishops’ offices, agencies and commissions as well as data on the dioceses of Ireland.

Trócaire’s Christmas 2008 ‘Global Gift’ campaign

Bishops ask the public to remember the world’s poorest and most vulnerable families this Christmas and to consider purchasing ‘Global Gifts’ from Trócaire. Global Gifts from Trócaire, the overseas development agency of the Bishops’ Conference, are a meaningful and original alternative to conventional Christmas presents for loved ones.

Trócaire’s Global Gifts consist of a range of ethical Christmas products which Trócaire then distributes to families and communities in the developing world.

This year’s Trócaire Global Gifts include school lunches for Burmese refugee children (€10); olive trees for Palestinian farmers (€20); seeds and tools for African families (€35); goats and agricultural support for African families (€45); mother and baby care (€60); support for grandparents caring for orphaned grandchildren (€80); the gift of food (€100); the gift of water (€150); land for poor Ugandan families (€200); business start up kits for Kenyan families (€300) and cyclone resilient houses in Bangladesh (€550).

Since the Global Gifts plan began eight years ago, Trócaire has sold 535,000 gifts, raising €21m to help people living in poverty. More details on

2009 dates for the Standing and General Meetings of the Bishops’ Conference

  • Standing Committee Meeting - 23 February
  • General Meeting – 9 to 11 March
  • Standing Committee Meeting - 25 May
  • General Meeting – 8 to 10 June
  • Standing Committee Meeting - 21 September
  • General Meeting – 6 to 7 October
  • Standing Committee Meeting - 23 November
  • General Meeting – 9 to 10 December

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(Source: IBC)