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“Cherish all the children of the nation equally”

By Sarah Mac Donald - 03 December, 2015

“As a society our progress should be measured against how effectively we care for the most vulnerable amongst us,” bishops state.

The winter meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference in St Patrick's College Maynooth. Photo: John McElroy

The winter meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference in St Patrick’s College Maynooth. Photo: John McElroy

The bishops’ conference has appealed to Irish society to “cherish all the children of the nation equally” whether unborn or born, and irrespective of a child’s health status.

In a statement issued following the winter general meeting of the IBC, the bishops said that as Irish society enters the most significant of centenary years this was more pressing than ever.

They also issued a strong statement in support of the Northern bishops’ stance over Monday’s ruling by the High Court in Belfast on the extension of the law on abortion.

“As a society our progress should be measured against how effectively we care for the most vulnerable amongst us,” they stated.

“If an unborn child suffers from a life-limiting condition, or is conceived as a result of a sexual crime for which s/he bears no responsibility, it would be inhumane to withdraw the protection of our basic law, the Constitution, to their right to life.”

They underlined that human life is sacred and that life at all stages deserves the utmost protection, compassion and care.

The Church teaches that the duty to care for, and to protect, human life extends equally to a mother and her unborn child.

The bishops warned that any attempt to repeal the 8th amendment to the Constitution is a direct attack on the most fundamental of all human rights – the right to life.

They also discussed with CURA, the Catholic Church’s crisis pregnancy support service, how it can continue to best support women experiencing crisis pregnancies now and in the future.

At the meeting in Maynooth, Archbishop Eamon Martin and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin briefed their fellow bishops on the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome on the Family.

A fruit of the Synod was the conviction that it is primarily families who minister to other families, married couples who minister to other married couples.

They expressed the hope that the Synod on the Family will encourage a renewed energy for caring for marriage and the family.

The Church in Ireland is now preparing for the 9th World Meeting of Families which will take place in Dublin in 2018.

Archbishop Eamon Martin also briefed bishops on the recent meeting he hosted with the environment ministers from the North and the Republic – Minister Alan Kelly and Minister Mark H Durkan.

The bishops discussed the importance of the COP21 negotiations securing a global deal to limit greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Trócaire, the overseas development agency of the Catholic Church, has developed a number of resources on the issue of climate justice including Glas, a resource to supplement The Cry of the Earth pastoral reflection published by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.  See www.trocaire.org/parish/climate.

They also congratulated the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas (ICPO) on its 30th anniversary which was marked with a conference on Tuesday in Dublin Castle, and which was addressed by President Michael D Higgins and by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Mr Charles Flanagan TD.

The conference explored the practical, policy and pastoral issues which apply to this uniquely vulnerable category of Irish emigrant.

Bishops expressed their appreciation to Bishop John Kirby, chair of the ICPO, to current and former ICPO staff members and volunteers who over the years have made an enormous positive contribution to the lives of Irish people who find themselves in prison overseas.

The ICPO currently works with approximately 1,200 Irish people imprisoned in more than thirty countries, and with their families.

Part of the ICPO’s work involves supporting returning ex-prisoners in their resettlement in Ireland and the bishops welcomed new research A Step At A Time, published on Tuesday. (Available on www.icpo.ie and www.catholicbishops.ie)

The Jubilee Year of Mercy will begin on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (8 December) and run until the Solemnity of Christ the King (20 November 2016).

A Holy Door will be opened in every diocese as part of the ceremonies.

Prayer for the Jubilee of Mercy

Lord Jesus Christ,
you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father,
and have told us that whoever sees you sees Him.
Show us your face and we will be saved.
Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money;
the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things;
made Peter weep after his betrayal,
and assured Paradise to the repentant thief.
Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman:
“If you knew the gift of God!”

You are the visible face of the invisible Father,
of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy:
let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified.
You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness
in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error:
let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.

Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing,
so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord,
and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor,
proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed,
and restore sight to the blind.

We ask this of you, Lord Jesus, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of
Mercy; you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and
ever.

Amen.

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