By Sarah Mac Donald - 27 January, 2015
“Truly this is a rather special moment in history when the successor of St Peter humbly invites all the baptised to assist in finding solutions to pastoral problems."
Bishop Liam Mac Daid has outlined a timeline for the Diocese of Clogher’s discussions in preparation for the synod on the family in Rome next October.
Dr Mac Daid, who is chair of the Bishops Council for Marriage, announced that he is introducing a new eight-person steering committee to facilitate the diocesan-wide discussion.
He also said that in order to facilitate a speedier pace of work, the number of pastoral areas in Clogher is to be reduced from fourteen to seven for the discussion.
The first level of consultation will involve the priests within these groupings.
The questions for the discussion will be formulated by the steering committee who will facilitate the consultation process.
When the initial phase of consultation has been completed, Clogher’s steering committee will move into a deeper and more comprehensive phase involving a small number of priests and religious and a much bigger number of lay people from all walks and corners of life.
To ensure that the process remains manageable the total number of participants involved in each cluster of pastoral areas will be approximately fifty.
This will include representatives of organisations and bodies which work closely with married couples and children.
The purpose of this restriction is certainly not to exclude, Bishop Mac Daid assured.
He highlighted that “It will be open to all groups and individuals to make a separate contribution of their own with the guarantee that it will be treated with the same care and respect as all other contributions that are submitted within the time limit which is Friday, 6 March at 5pm.”
“It is envisaged that this conversation will take place over the next two months and come to a conclusion at Easter time,” the bishop said in a statement on Monday.
Elsewhere, Bishop Mac Daid described the questions raised by Pope Francis for discussion as “refreshingly honest and pertinent”.
Underlining that family is common to us all, he said the “quality of our lives and the health of our relationships are very closely related to the kind of family life we succeed in making for ourselves.”
He added, “Whatever damages the family hurts us all and whatever enriches family life is a blessing for us all.”
Dr Mac Daid highlighted that Pope Francis is inviting the faithful “in a fuller way than many previous generations, to help him and all Church leaders in ‘the task of formulating the pastoral responses to the real situation of family life around the world’ as it was expressed at last year’s Extraordinary Synod.”
“How could we turn our backs to such a respectful and gracious invitation,” the Bishop of Clogher asked.
“Truly this is a rather special moment in history when the successor of St Peter humbly invites all the baptised to assist in finding solutions to pastoral problems. Let us be grateful and grasp the opportunity, while we ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in wisdom and love on our pilgrim way.”
He said the Church is being asked to share its experience of married and family life and to ask themselves how well or how badly our local Church supports and provides pastoral care for married couples and families.
“Such an examination should help us to strengthen and renew this pastoral care in such a way that the smiles that come from the pram and light up adult faces will always be there, moving everyone to say that life is good.”
The Diocese of Clogher includes Co Monaghan, most of Co Fermanagh and portions of Counties Tyrone, Donegal, Louth and Cavan. The Diocese has a Catholic population of 84,384, 85 churches and 37 parishes.