The Catholic bishops have expressed deep concern at the growing level of homelessness across Ireland.
They called on people of goodwill to support homeless agencies in every way they can “towards building a society where homelessness, and poor housing, which are an affront to human dignity, are eradicated forever.”
The bishops noted that, according to the Vincent de Paul Society, “there are almost 90,000 households waiting for social housing in the Republic of Ireland – and over 2,000 children living in homeless accommodation in Dublin”.
Meanwhile, the latest official count by the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive found 142 rough sleepers on the streets of the capital, an increase of 56 per cent over the past year.
Such a reality was contrary to the social teaching of the Catholic Church which “informs us that each person, regardless of his or her economic or social position, racial or faith background, must be treated with full dignity,” the bishops said.
“ Sadly this Christmas there are tens of thousands of people living in our parishes who are in crisis, struggling with rents; with no food in the cupboard; no heating in their home and in need of fuel and basic clothing. Such families are living in cramped conditions in hotels and bed-and-breakfasts, or desperately trying to hold onto their tenancies in the private rented sector.”
The bishops said “many dioceses have undertaken special initiatives for the homeless and people in need this Christmas”.
They noted how “since December 2014, the Archdiocese of Dublin has provided accommodation for 30 homeless people, operated by Crosscare” and that it was currently in negotiations with city authorities “with a view to providing two other premises for emergency accommodation.”
The bishops made their remarks in a statement at the end of their winter meeting in Maynooth on Wednesday.
On other matters, they said they were currently finalising their submission on the Eighth Amendment to the Citizens’ Assembly and that this would be published in the coming days.
They said that at the recent Irish Inter–Church Meeting, between the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Irish Council of Churches, last month in Portarlington, Co Laois, the plight of the ongoing persecution of Christians in the Middle East was discussed.
In a joint communique afterwards they agreed that “as churches, we can play our part by keeping this issue on the agenda of our political leaders and ensuring that the victims of persecution are not forgotten.”
The Catholic bishops urged support for Trócaire’s Christmas appeal and said members of the Irish Bishops’ Conference would travel to Rome next month for their ad limina visit to the Vatican, which will include an audience with Pope Francis and meetings with senior members of the Curia.
All bishops in charge of a diocese are required to make such visits, usually every five years.
However, the last ad llimina visit to Rome by Irish bishops was in 2006.
The Irish bishops also sent their congratulations to Pope Francis, who will be 80 on December 17th.