Irish Bishops issue pastoral letter on alcohol for Lent 2007

 As part of the preparation for Lent this year, the Irish Bishops' Conference is publishing a pastoral letter entitled Alcohol The Challenge of Moderation. Through the pastoral, the Bishops' Conference wishes to encourage a society-wide debate on the subject of Ireland's national treatment of alcohol. The Bishops' Drugs and Alcohol Initiative based in the Columba Centre, Maynooth, Co Kildare is inviting suggestions as to how moderation can be promoted at local parish level. The Bishops' Conference also intends to develop a DVD version of the pastoral for use by schools and colleges. The Day of Prayer for Temperance is celebrated this year on Sunday 18 February. Ash Wednesday follows on 21 February, when, the letter says: "many people decide to observe temperance during Lent, in the spirit of giving up in order to become better people". Just over 150 years ago, in 1856, the Capuchin Friar Father Theobald Mathew 'The Apostle of Temperance' died after a life dedicated to tackling the problems caused by the excessive use of alcohol. His founding of the Temperance Movement helped cause a huge shift away from excessive drinking in Ireland at the time. The Pastoral letter is available on: in English, Irish and Polish. The Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmiud Martin; Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin and Vice-Chair of the Irish Bishops' Drugs and Alcohol Initiative Dr Eamonn Walsh; and Capuchin Friar Fr Dan Joe O'Mahony, chaplain to St Thomas the Apostle Church in Laurel Lodge and Blanchardstown Town Centre will be launching the letter in Dublin on Friday by a statue of Fr Mathew. Fr Theobald Mathew (1790-1856) was a Cork-born Capuchin Friar who led a great temperance movement from 1839-1856. His anti-drink campaign is considered to have been a great social revolution that saw the establishment of Temperance Societies in every parish in the country. At its peak between 1838-1845, it was estimated that there were 3-4 million abstaining from drink in Ireland. This high number was aided by the fact that Fr Mathew appealed to every class and rank in society. In 1843, Fr Mathew went to England and Scotland where he had further success, and later spent over two years in the US where he gave the pledge in over 300 towns. With the words "Here goes in the name of God" he signed the Cork Total Abstinence Society on 10 April 1838, and his campaign began. He became President of the Cork Total Abstinence Society and after just ten months over 6000 had taken the pledge: "I promise to abstain from all intoxicating drinks, except used medically and by order of a medical man, and to discountenance the cause and practice of intemperance." In January of this year a theatrical production of the life of Fr Mathew, supported by the Cork Opera House, was staged in the Half Moon Theatre in Cork. Source: Irish Catholic Media Office

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