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Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference discusses refugees, homelessness and Advent

By Katie Ascough - 06 December, 2019

Archbishop Eamon Martin, President of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference

The Winter 2019 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference concluded this week in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth.

Among items discussed were refugees, homelessness, Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter, and the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation for Advent 2019.

Bishops discussed the community sponsorship model for welcoming refugees in the context of the meeting on 19 November between Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop Michael Neary and Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly SMA with Minister for Justice and Equality Mr Charlie Flanagan and Minister of State with responsibility for Equality, Immigration and Integration Mr David Stanton.

Minister Stanton briefed the archbishops on this model and the success of the pilot scheme to date. Bishops commended the programme overseen by the Department of Justice and Equality as a practical expression of Catholic Social Teaching and a response to Pope Francis’ call for every parish to receive and welcome a refugee family. The Bishops’ Council for Justice and Peace will hold an information session for parishes and communities wishing to become involved in this programme in Spring 2020.

Regarding homelessness, the bishops expressed their support for the Irish Inter-Church Committee initiative “In six months a lot can change”. This study resource and accompanying video are suitable for small groups to engage critically with Scripture, examining the meaning of home in God’s interactions with His people, exploring what home means for family life, and how fear of losing home, or actually losing it, is devastating to the individual and for societal wellbeing. For more information on this initiative, click here.

The bishops welcomed the Apostolic Letter by Pope Francis published on the first Sunday of Advent which spoke about the meaning and importance of the nativity scene. Pope Francis reminds us: “By being born in a manger, God Himself launches the only true revolution that can give hope and dignity to the disinherited and the outcast: the revolution of love, the revolution of tenderness.” Pope Francis hopes this letter will encourage the family tradition of preparing the nativity scene, “but also the custom of setting it up in the workplace, in schools, hospitals, prisons and town squares”.

The bishops said, “Our celebration of Advent should be an integral part of our preparation for the Feast of the birth of Our Saviour. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation [Penance] we receive the gift of God’s mercy and forgiveness. We encourage all Catholics to make time during the season of Advent to celebrate and receive the gift of God’s love in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.”

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