By Ann Marie Foley - 05 October, 2017
At the Autumn General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the bishops prayed for those killed and injured during shooting in Las Vegas. They prayed that the survivors, their families and loved ones, may find strength and healing in their faith and receive the support of compassionate caregivers as they begin to recover from the trauma of their physical and emotional wounds.
At the meeting which concluded yesterday in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, the bishops also spoke about the campaign to remove Article 40.3.3 (the pro-life eighth amendment) from the Constitution of Ireland, as well as the consequences in Britain since the enactment of the Abortion Act 1967.
The bishops noted that the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution is currently considering the report of the Citizens’ Assembly. The bishops reiterated key points from their submission to the Citizens’ Assembly, including human life begins at conception; the life of the unborn baby is equal to that of her/his mother; and the right to life is the fundamental human right antecedent to all other human rights.
Another area of proposed legislation that the bishops discussed was the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015. They backed the Irish Bishops’ Drugs Initiative (IBDI) which has proposed that the availability of alcohol at retail checkouts be curtailed, in order to reduce alcohol related harm to children, families and communities. The bishops urged the Government to expedite the Bill to ensure that price, labelling, advertising and separation of alcohol products help to reduce alcohol consumption.
There was also concern expressed about the peace process in Northern Ireland and the bishops discussed the deadlock in talks between the political parties and the threat that this vacuum is posing. Concern was expressed that local political decisions on education and health are being postponed and causing hardship in people’s lives. They encouraged political leaders to prioritise the common good over all other concerns in order to inspire hope, once again, in the ability of politics to deliver positive change for society.
The meeting heard of plans to introduce the Trócaire Romero Awards to celebrate people who work for global justice at home and abroad. Bishop William Crean, chairman of Trócaire, led a special liturgy with the blessing of a small garden, within Saint Patrick’s College, in honour of Blessed Oscar Romero.
The Bishops thanked the people of Ireland for their very generous contributions to the church collection taken up across the country in July, in response to the food crisis in South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. Whilst the final figure is not yet known, it is expected to amount to about €4.5m.
Trócaire has also made an initial contribution of €30,000 to Caritas Bangladesh in support of its humanitarian work among the more than 400,000 Rohingya people who have crossed the Border from Myanmar in recent weeks as a result of violence and insecurity. Further funds will be made available to Caritas Bangladesh in the coming weeks.
A Mass of welcome was celebrated in the College Chapel in honour of the new Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, His Excellency Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo. The Archbishop expressed his warm appreciation of the positive contribution of Irish missionaries, some of whom were involved in his education from a young age, as well as being influential in nurturing his faith and ministry. The Mass was concelebrated by bishops and priests, and the congregation included staff from the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the national seminary, and some members of the councils and agencies of the Conference.
The bishops also welcomed Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ, Bishop of Raphoe, to his first plenary meeting of the Bishops’ Conference in Maynooth.