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Monday, September 26, 2016
Statements concluding Irish Bishops' Conference General Meeting
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At the end of  their General Meeting, the Irish Bishops' Conference  issued statements on the following this evening:  Protection and support for marriage and family; Pope Benedict's Pastoral Letter;  Year for Priests; Approval of new Roman Missal; Eucharistic Congress 2012; Day for Life.


 Protection and support for marriage and family

Bishops discussed the statement Why Marriage Matters which was published by the Bishops' Conference in March in the context of the Civil Partnership Bill which has just completed its Committee Stage in Dáil Éireann.  Why Marriage Matters is available in print format and has been distributed in parishes.  It is also available to download from the Bishops' website www.catholicbishops.ie
 
Bishops appealed to Oireachtas members to consider Why Marriage Matters as they discuss this Bill and in particular to consider in conscience the following excerpt from it before voting on the Bill:

"Oireachtas Eireann is about to pass legislation that seeks to give same-sex relationships a standing which will be as similar as possible to marriage. The Civil Partnership Bill will not permit adoption by same-sex couples. In most other respects, including tax and social welfare purposes, same-sex civil partnerships will be regarded as being equal to marriage.
 
"This is not compatible with seeing the family based on marriage as the necessary basis of the social order and as indispensable to the welfare of the Nation and State. Nor does it 'guard with special care the institution of Marriage, on which the Family is founded.'" (Art. 41.3.1, Bunreacht na hÉireann)
 
Bishops called on Oireachtas members to allow for greater recognition of the proper autonomy of Churches and the right to social and civil freedom in religious matters.

This includes the right of individuals to the free exercise of conscience in accordance with the objective moral order and the teaching of the Gospel.  The current Bill, by exposing Civil Registrars to a fine and/or imprisonment should they act in accordance with their conscience on the matter of same-sex unions, undermines this cherished principle of a free and diverse society and imposes unjust limits on the 'freedom of conscience and free expression and practice of religion' guaranteed to every citizen in Article 44.2.1 of Bunreacht Na hÉireann.  Bishops therefore appeal to Government to introduce amendments to the Bill to accommodate freedom of religious conscience on this vital matter.  Bishops also ask Government to support a free vote for all members of Dáil Éireann and the Seanad on this Bill as it passes through the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Response to Pope Benedict XVI's Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland

(i) Spiritual guidance and initiatives

Bishops discussed Pope Benedict XVI's Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland which was published on 20 March paying particular attention to the spiritual guidance and initiatives which were outlined in it.  Bishops acknowledged the ongoing reflection and dialogue which is taking place in parishes around the country with people coming together to pray, take part in Eucharistic Adoration and to discuss this important Pastoral Letter and the issues arising from it. 
 
The discussion on Pope Benedict's Pastoral Letter included emphasis on renewal of faith and of the Church.  This requires placing special emphasis on the role of lay faithful, who are encouraged to offer an articulate and convincing account of the Gospel in the midst of modern society and to cooperate in the Church's life and mission.  It was agreed that particular attention ought to be given to establishing and developing parish pastoral councils, finance committees, and other bodies which enable greater participation of the lay faithful in the service and mission of the Church.
 
Bishops decided to establish a preliminary task group to explore the potential for a multi-disciplinary analysis of the Irish context to bring new or additional insight to research already conducted or underway. 
 
Bishops also agreed to produce materials and develop initiatives around renewing prayers and fasting specifically for the intentions set out in the Pastoral Letter and for a set period of time to be determined by the Episcopal Conference e.g. from Advent 2011 to Advent 2011.  Bishops are grateful for the many ideas and responses received from around the country and will return to this issue at their Autumn General Meeting in October. 
 
(ii) Safeguarding of Children

- review of the management of current cases The Chairman, Mr John Morgan and Chief Executive, Mr Ian Elliott, National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, addressed the Bishops' Conference regarding the preparations for the review of the management of current cases of abuse in dioceses. 
 
The prime task of the Child Safeguarding Diocesan Reviews is to look at current risks and their management with a view to informing current and future practice.
 
The review process will include the dioceses in four phases and thereafter it will cover religious congregations.  The National Board has been in contact with the statutory authorities, North and South, concerning its preparations and the Board is satisfied that the authorities accept the validity of its approach to the Child Safeguarding Diocesan Reviews. 
 
The National Board has established a Reference Group to oversee this review.  The Reference Group will be chaired by Dr Helen Buckley, Trinity College, Dublin.  The review process will involve a number of experienced professionals whose skills include comprehensive knowledge of child safeguarding legislation and administration.
 
(iii) Apostolic Visitation in Ireland

Bishops' welcomed the announcement on 31 May that the Holy See intends to offer assistance to bishops, clergy, religious and lay faithful in our response to the situation caused by the appalling and criminal cases of abuse perpetrated by some priests and religious upon minors. 
 
Bishops look forward to finding out details regarding the Apostolic Visitation in Ireland.  An important objective of Apostolic Visitation will be to contribute to spiritual renewal of the Church in Ireland.
 
Year for Priests

Bishops reviewed the Year for Priests which was inaugurated by Pope Benedict XVI in June 2009 and which concluded last weekend in Rome with the celebration of Mass in St Peter's Square.
 
Bishops welcomed developments in dioceses during the Year for Priests such as working groups to look at ongoing formation, penitential pilgrimages for priests and various other meetings held on the theme of priesthood.
 
Bishops reflected on the supportive words of Pope Benedict during his homily at the closing Mass for the Year for Priests on Friday: "The priest is not a mere office-holder. ... Rather, he does something which no human being can do of his own power: in Christ's name he speaks the words which absolve us of our sins and in this way he changes, starting with God, our entire life.  Over the offerings of bread and wine he speaks Christ's words of thanksgiving, ... which open the world to God and unite it to Him.  The priesthood, then, is not simply 'office' but Sacrament."
 
A special feature is still available on the Year for Priests on the Bishops' Conference website  which includes video and text highlights of the year and some recent video footage of the closing events in Rome.
 
Approval of the Third Edition of The Roman Missal

Bishops welcomed the recent completion of the translation of the Third Edition of The Roman Missal and its approval by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.  Bishops look forward to its final editing and its use
at Masses in Ireland towards the end of 2011.
 
Bishops will engage in diocesan and parish programmes to help our congregations to understand and appreciate the new translation of the Mass so that the changes will serve, in the words of the Holy Father, "as a spring board for a renewal and
deepening of Eucharistic devotion all over the English speaking world".
 
A new edition of the Latin Missal was issued in 2002 and this new translation will replace the current Missal we have used since 1975.  Since 1975 there have been many additions to the Missal.  New feasts have been added to the Liturgical Calendar, new
Eucharistic Prayers were issued and a new Calendar with many new prayers has been approved for Ireland.  All of these will be included in the new edition under preparation. 

Over the past six years the bishops have been receiving the new translation in segments from the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, a commission representing eleven Bishops' Conferences in the English-speaking world.  The most obvious difference will be the changes in translation since this has been done according to norms for translation issued in 2001.  These norms call for a fuller faithful translation of the Latin, capturing the biblical resonances of our prayers more clearly and the rich words and phrases of the prayers, many more than 1200 years old.
 
Eucharistic Congress in Ireland in 2012


The Feast of Corpus Christi saw the launch of a pastoral programme to assist people in the journey of preparation ahead of the next Eucharistic Congress which takes place in Ireland in June 2012.  The second national collection to support the preparation and hosting of the Congress took place at Masses throughout Ireland's 26 dioceses on 6 June.
 
In September volunteers will be invited to support the preparation of the Congress.  Suitable candidates will be invited to participate in a programme of spiritual and practical preparation.  A competition is being held to compose a these hymn for the
Congress.  Leading Irish composers of sacred music in various traditions have been invited to submit entries by early September.
 
Bishops expressed their gratitude to all who contributed generously to the collection on 6 June and to those who have already given so much time and energy to the preparatory work for the Congress. See www.iec2012.ie/E-Congress/index.html to
download pastoral resources in the Irish and English languages.
 
 'Day for Life'
-
to be celebrated on 3 October 2010 in Ireland The Catholic Church in Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales celebrates our 'Day for Life' this year with the common theme of "The meaning of Christian death and care for those who are dying".
 
Life is a gift we hold from God, who not only gives life but redeems it.  Death does not break the bonds of love.  No matter how short it may be, or whatever its condition, every life has a purpose and contains a grace.   The Christian life is not specifically protected from illness, pain or death, yet we know that even in these experiences we can find God and be a witness to Him, our Lord in life and in death (Phil 1:21).
 
The full text of the pastoral letter for this year's 'Day for Life', which addresses the meaning of Christian death and care for the dying, will be published on 3 October next.



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