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Statement of the Summer 2023 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference

Press Release - Wednesday 14 June 2023, Feast of Saint Davnet
Immediate: Newsdesks, Photodesks and Religious Affairs Correspondents

Statement of the Summer 2023 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference

Members of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference gathered in-person this week for their Summer 2023 General Meeting at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth.  The President of the Conference is Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh and the Vice-President is Archbishop Dermot Farrell of Dublin.  Bishops welcomed the recently appointed Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, His Excellency Archbishop Luis Mariano Montemayor, to their meeting.

Prayers for improving health of the Holy Father
Bishops welcomed the news updates from the Holy See Press Office that the medical condition of Pope Francis “is proceeding normally” following his surgery on 7 June, and invited the faithful to join with them in prayer for the Holy Father’s speedy recovery and to offer @Pontifex good wishes on social media.
Annual Maynooth Union
Bishops offered their prayerful good wishes to all clergy and especially to those attending the annual Maynooth Union at Saint Patrick’s College this week.  The gathering offers an opportunity for priests marking significant anniversaries of their ordination - silver, golden and diamond jubilees - to celebrate together and enjoy memories of college days as well to discuss questions of interest.  This year’s union was addressed by keynote speaker Professor Gladys Ganiel, Professor of Sociology of Religion at Queen’s University, Belfast, who spoke on the topic ‘Ireland’s Shifting Religious Landscape: Trends and Trajectories’.  The response was provided by Rev Professor Michael A Conway, Professor in Faith and Culture, Saint Patrick’s Pontifical University, Maynooth.
The main issues discussed by the bishops during their Summer General Meeting included:

  • Journeying together with Immigrants
  • Protecting human life: “There is no such thing as a life without value”
  • Safeguarding
  • Synodal Pathway
  • Bishops’ Drugs Initiative: criminalisation approach to drugs policy is ineffective
  • World Youth Day in Lisbon from 31 July to 6 August
  • EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive
  • Resources for Season of Creation from 1 September to 4 October
  • Year for Vocations to the Diocesan Priesthood 2023 - 2024
  • Setting-aside of 30% of Church lands for biodiversity purposes
  • Bishops express gratitude to people for their Church funded €9.2m in humanitarian aid for Ukraine, Turkey and Syria
  • Appointment
  • In Memoriam


  • Journeying together with Immigrants

On 9 June the Council for Immigrants of the Bishops’ Conference hosted a seminar in Maynooth on ‘Journeying together with Immigrants’.  Bishop Michael Duignan, chair of the Council for Immigrants opened the seminar.  Attendees were drawn from diocesan liaison personnel for immigrants as well as by immigrant chaplaincies across Ireland and others who work in this area.  The first session was chaired by Toni Pike, peace, justice and ecology coordinator of the Association of Leaders of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland (AMRI), and was addressed by Eugene Quinn and David Moriarty of the Jesuit Refugee Service who spoke on the topic ‘Ireland’s accommodation crisis – a challenge to solidarity and hospitality’.  The panel discussion involved Sister Alacoque Gleeson RSM, from Ballinasloe, who reflected on practical responses to welcoming refugees into the local community; by Albina Polyshchuk, from Ukraine and now living in Loughrea, who spoke on adapting to, and the experience of living in, an Irish community; and by Father Willie Purcell of the Diocese of Ossory, who reflected on the pastoral response provided by the diocese’s orientation team to migrant communities at parish level.
Bishops commended the outcome of the seminar which concluded that there is a greater need for collaboration between all groups working to welcome, care for and advocate for the pastoral provision for immigrant communities.  Bishops said,
“The reasons that give rise to forced migration need to be part of the conversation, nationally and internationally.  So too does the urgency of adequate planning for housing, healthcare, education and other resources for those who are forced to seek shelter across the island of Ireland.  The Council for Immigrants will continue to collaborate and journey with all those who work for the wellbeing of immigrants to promote a culture of encounter and integration.”

  • Protecting human life – “There is no such thing as a life without value”

Message for Day for Life this Sunday 18 June on the theme: ‘Listen to Her’
In parishes across Ireland the annual Day for Life will be celebrated this Sunday, 18 June.  Its short message, Listen to Her, is being promoted in Ireland, Scotland and in England and Wales and focuses on the experience of one Catholic woman “Jane” in the aftermath of abortion.  Jane’s compelling story recounts her journey towards healing and the role of ‘Rachel’s Vineyard’, a healing ministry that provides support for those who are suffering after abortion.  The hope is that Jane’s story will help people to listen, to understand and to respond with compassion. 
To complement Day for Life 2023, Pope Francis has provided a short message of encouragement wherein he prays for all expectant mothers and their families. The Pope’s message, along with related homily notes and Prayers for Intercession, can be accessed on the homepage of www.councilforlife.ie  Bishops encourage everyone, especially young adults, to reflect on its contents and to foster a culture of life in Irish society and noted that the Rally for Life takes place on 1 July from 2.00pm at the Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Square in Dublin city centre.
End of life care
Bishops noted that the subject of assisted suicide was being addressed this week by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Assisted Dying.  Bishops said that the proposal to introduce assisted suicide is a cause of great concern to all those who believe in the sanctity of human life.  Bishops agreed to consider the subject in greater detail in a forthcoming pastoral message.

  • Safeguarding

The chief executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland, Ms Teresa Devlin, updated bishops on a number of current safeguarding matters including the publication this week of the National Board’s latest annual report NBSCCC Report 23_TODATE_J.indd (safeguarding.ie)
The annual report details the work of the National Office over 2022 and 2023.  Ms Devlin stated that the increase in the number of allegations over this period followed publicity regarding abuse in schools.  Ms Devlin highlighted the valuable role played by media in its reporting of abuse, which can enable survivors to voice their concerns and encourage others to come forward.
Ms Devlin spoke of the National Board’s plan to engage in research in order to more fully come to terms with abuse within the Church and ensure accountability so as to serve justice and achieve reconciliation.  Once this research is complete, and it will include consultation with victims/survivors and Church personnel, the Board will suggest a framework for consideration by Church authorities.
Ms Devlin also stated that the National Board has completed its drafting of a new child safeguarding policy for the Church that takes into account changes in civil and canon law.

  • Synodal Pathway

Bishops welcomed the Vatican’s announcement in April that Pope Francis was modifying the membership of 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on Synodality, which will take place from 4 to 29 this October.  For the first time at a Synod, 70 non-bishop members (priests, consecrated women, deacons, and lay faithful) will be in attendance with the right to vote.  The Holy Father has requested that 50% of the representatives selected be women and that an emphasis should also be placed on the presence of young people.
The official working document for the Synod, Instrumentum Laboris, will be published at 1.30pm (Ireland time) on 20 June by the General Secretariat of the Synod in Rome.  This launch can be followed online as it will be livestreamed on the Vatican News YouTube Channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/VaticanNews.
Next Steps – Synodal Pathway in Ireland
On 28 June the National Steering Committee of the Synodal Pathway of the Catholic Church in Ireland will meet with the Bishops’ Conference to discuss:

  • the format and methodologies for the Synodal Pathway of the Catholic Church in Ireland;
  • to identify specific themes to work synodally across the Church in Ireland; and,
  • to consider other planning and governance questions.

The Steering Committee intends to hold a national gathering towards the end of the year.  Its purpose is to engage further with diocesan delegates and representatives of groups that have participated to date, to outline the structure, content and future governance of the Irish Synodal Pathway, and consider outcomes that may emerge from October’s Universal Synod.

  • Bishops’ Drugs Initiative: criminalisation approach to drugs policy is ineffective

The Irish Bishop’s Drugs Initiative (IBDI), along with the Family Addiction Support Network (FASN), have made a submission to the ongoing Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use. This Citizen’s Assembly was established to consider the legislative, policy and operational changes that could be made in Ireland to reduce the harmful impacts of illicit drugs on individuals, families, communities, and wider Irish society.
The joint submission outlines its belief that the current criminalisation approach to drug policy has been ineffective in addressing drug use and its associated harms.  Drug use should be addressed as a social and health issue rather than a justice issue.  Research shows that decriminalisation does not increase drug use and other crime.  The social cost to the individual is much reduced including future employment prospects.
The IBDI and FASN are completely opposed to the legalisation of drugs and believe that such a move, considering the social, psychological, and physical effects of drugs, would be disastrous for public health and for communities across the island.
The submission also calls for the provision of peer-led family support groups, the inclusion of families in the development of all services and policies, and for substantial investment in drug projects and family supports to help protect future generations from the negative and harmful effects of drug use.

  • World Youth Day in Lisbon from 31 July to 6 August

The 37th World Youth Day will take place in Lisbon, Portugal, from 31 July to 6 August next, with the theme chosen by Pope Francis ‘Mary arose and went with haste’ (Luke 1.39).  This global celebration of faith by young people usually takes place every three years.  Pope Francis is expected to attend WYD during which he is expected to visit and pray at the Marian Shrine in Fatima and celebrate the closing Mass on Sunday 6 August.
To date, Irish participation at World Youth Day in Lisbon includes almost registered 1,500 pilgrims, including at least twelve different nationalities from Ireland.  These pilgrims include sixteen diocesan groups, including nine bishops some of whom will be available to give catechesis on the WYD theme: ‘Mary arose and went with haste’.  Over 200 pilgrims will also attend with members of the Association of Leaders of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland (AMRI).  In addition, various religious movements hope to participate with groups of young people including Jesus Youth, the Neo-Catechumenal Way and Communion and Liberation.  Fifteen Irish groups will attend pre-WYD events in Portugal.

  • EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive

The Bishops’ Conference has been following the progress at EU level of the development of a new Directive on Corporate Sustainability.  This new Directive has potential to create positive change to protect vulnerable people from serious harm caused by corporations to some of the poorest communities in the world.  The crucial phase of passing this directive begins after July and Bishops believe that Ireland can be a leading voice among EU members states.  The work of CIDSE, the international family of Catholic Social Justice organisations, and of faith leaders generally across Europe has already led the way on this issue.
Bishops said, “We recognise the disproportionate power of corporate actors in relation to vulnerable communities in low-income countries.  The forthcoming EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive could both create a level playing field for all businesses and ensure corporate accountability for any harm caused by businesses to people and the environment.  We urge the Government of Ireland to support a strong EU Directive that puts vulnerable communities first and that can deliver meaningful justice to victims of corporate exploitation and abuse around the world.”

  • Resources for Season of Creation from 1 September to 4 October

Bishops received a report from its Laudato Si’ Working Group on preparations for the forthcoming Season of Creation which the Universal Church celebrates annually from 1 September to 4 October, the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi.  This year’s theme will be ‘Let Justice and Peace flow!’  Resources for use by parish groups and individuals will include prayers for outdoor liturgies, liturgical aids for the five Sundays of the Season, video-based reflections based on the message of Pope Francis for this year’s Season as well as material on Catholic social teaching.
For this year’s Season of Creation parishes and other faith communities across Ireland are invited to hold an ecumenical service on Saturday 30 September.  This is to coincide with the ecumenical prayer vigil that will be held on that evening in Saint Peter’s Square, Rome, in the presence of Pope Francis and representatives of other Churches, to entrust the work of the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on Synodality to the Lord’s guidance.
Bishops said, “As Pope Francis has often reminded us, the path to Christian unity, to synodal conversion and to ecological conversion, are closely interconnected.  This event on 30 September will provide local communities with the opportunity to come together in a way that allows us to witness to our common faith in Jesus ‘living, teaching and acting in ways that favour a speedy end to the environmental destruction that offends the Creator and degrades His creatures, and building individual and collective patterns of behaviour that foster a sustainable and integral development for the good of all’” (Joint Declaration of Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, 5 October 2016).
Setting-aside of 30% of Church lands for biodiversity purposes
Bishops renewed their invitation issued to parishes and dioceses at the Spring General Meeting to consider the setting-aside of 30% of Church lands for biodiversity purposes by 2030. Work is at an advanced stage on making available a suite of resources to Church-based groups on how to manage such re-wilding projects.

  • Year for Vocations to the Diocesan Priesthood 2023 - 2024

Bishops prayed for vocations and discussed the ongoing Year for Vocation to the Diocesan Priesthood which has as its theme ‘Take the Risk for Christ’ and is running until Good Shepherd Sunday on 21 April 2024.  In particular, the Bishops’ Conference commended initiatives that offer opportunities for gathering to discuss, discern and promote vocations such as the:

  • Play for Vocations Golf Tournament on 21 June in Birr Golf Club
  • Pilgrims attending World Youth Day in Lisbon in 1 – 6 August
  • Gathering at Knock Shrine on 17 August
  • The Lough Derg Camino on 26 August
  • Reek Sunday Climb for Vocations on Croagh Patrick on 30 July 

Bishops thanked all those who encourage men to respond to God’s call and consider discerning a life as a priest, in particularly in families, parishes, priests themselves and dedicated groups such as the Saint Joseph’s Young Priest’s Society.  For anyone wishing to inquire about vocations to the priesthood please contact info.vocations.ie.

  • Bishops express gratitude to people for their Church funded €9.2m in humanitarian aid for Ukraine, Turkey and Syria

The ongoing humanitarian impacts of the war in Ukraine and the earthquake in Turkey and Syria were discussed by the Bishops. It was noted that by mid-May there were almost 23,000 casualties in Ukraine, including over 8,500 deaths, with 17.7m people being in particular need in that country. In Turkey, the death toll from the devastating earthquake is in excess of 50,000 while in Syria it is around 6,000. The impacts on life and living conditions have been enormous in all of these places.
Again, Bishops thanked the Irish people for their generous response to Church-funded humanitarian appeals.  To date, €5,795,786 has been received by Trócaire through Church appeals for Ukraine.  This funding has allowed 110,000 people to be directly supported in a variety of ways, working closely on the ground with the Church’s charity organisation, Caritas. For Turkey and Syria, Trócaire has raised a total of €3,586,110 and this is focused on the immediate needs of people who have been displaced.  Trócaire is working closely with organisations such as Caritas and the Jesuit Refugee Service.  Bishops also commended the work of Trócaire personnel and those with whom they collaborate in bringing relief and support to so many people in distress.

  • Appointment

Bishops offered their prayerful blessing to Bishop-elect Paul Connell, who will be ordained as the next Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois this Sunday, 18 June.

  • In Memoriam

Bishops prayed for the repose of the soul of Sister Catherine Brennan SSL, a member of the Laudato Si’ Working Group of the Bishops’ Conference, who died on 20 March last.