By Sarah Mac Donald - 01 October, 2015
The Bishops are due to issue a detailed statement on the current refugee, asylum seeker and migrant crisis later today following their discussion of the issue at their autumn general meeting in Maynooth earlier this week.
The meeting also discussed human trafficking and homelessness.
Welcoming a briefing on human trafficking and prostitution from Good Shepherd Sister Gerardine Rowley, and Mercy Sisters, Mary Ryan and Sheila Curran, the bishops paid tribute to all who work in the Act to Prevent Trafficking Network (APT).
In the context of the Year of Consecrated life, the bishops gave recognition to the important contribution of religious congregations to efforts to eradicate human trafficking and provide care and support to victims.
“This immense task, which calls for courage, patience and perseverance, deserves the appreciation of the whole Church and society”, Pope Francis said in his message for World Day of Peace 2015.
In preparation for the EU Anti-Human Trafficking Day on 18 October, the bishops noted last week’s publication of the Criminal Law Sexual Offences Bill 2015.
When enacted, this bill will strengthen existing legislation on prostitution by focusing on the demand which fuels organised crime in the sex trade.
The Northern Bishops had previously advocated for the introduction of similar legislation, which came into effect in Northern Ireland in June.
The APT representatives advised bishops that decriminalising the selling of sex would help combat prostitution and human trafficking.
The repeal of this offence would ensure an all-Ireland approach to addressing the exploitative nature of prostitution.
Pope Francis’ universal prayer intention for October is focused on trafficking, imploring “That human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, may be eradicated”.
The Pope has described human trafficking as modern slavery and one of the greatest threats to the global common good and “an open wound on the body of contemporary society.”
Separately, the bishops remembered the homeless who have died on the streets of Ireland.
They noted that Pope Francis has spoken of housing as a “sacred” right.
“I said it and I repeat it: a home for every family … Family and housing go hand in hand”, the Pontiff said in his address to the participants at the World Meeting of Popular Movements (28 October 2014).
Discussing the current housing situation, the bishops said it is a profound and far-reaching issue of social justice.
Catholic social teaching recognises that housing is a universal human right, with corresponding responsibilities on societies to honour that right.
Homelessness, inadequate and unaffordable housing, and living with the threat of losing one’s home, are all experiences that impose enormous hardship and stress on affected individuals and families.
“Such problems place great strain on family relationships, and can even lead to a breakdown of marriages and relationships. Homelessness affects people’s health, their ability to access education and employment and their ability to participate in the normal life of the community,” they stated.
The IBC added that the experience of housing insecurity and homelessness inflicts great damage to the emotional well-being of children, and can adversely affect their participation in education.
The bishops called for a redoubling of efforts by all relevant statutory and voluntary authorities in order to pool resources to prevent further deaths of homeless people on Irish streets.