Irish Bishops’ Autumn Meeting focuses on Synodal pathway, migrants and refugees
By Vatican News staff writer
The members of the Irish Bishops’ Conference met this week at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, for their Autumn 2022 General Meeting.
According to a statement, the Bishops discussed several issues, including their appeal to the government to extend energy-cost support to local community facilities, safeguarding, support for refugees from Ukraine and asylum seekers, care for Travelers, and the synodal pathway of the Church in Ireland, among others.
Energy-cost support to local facilities
The Bishops, while welcoming certain measures announced by the government in “Budget 2023” to provide financial support to households, businesses, and some other organizations facing inflationary energy costs, highlighted the lack of assistance for community facilities (parish centers, community halls, and church buildings) that are not granted aid.
They called on the government to make this assistance available so that these vital community resources can remain open on a sustainable basis, and urged leaders to offer grant support to equip these facilities to be more energy efficient in the future. The Bishops made the appeal, pointing out that church buildings are often frequented by the homeless and vulnerable to keep warm and safe, especially during the winter months; and with soaring heating costs, they added, “it is difficult to see how drastic closures can be avoided.”
Support for refugees and asylum seekers
In light of the increasing number of Ukrainian people forced to flee from the war in their country, 50,000 of who are now in Ireland, the Bishops expressed their gratitude to the many parishioners, clergy, and religious who are working tirelessly to welcome them at a local level.
They further assured all refugees and asylum seekers of “their spiritual, pastoral, and welfare concern,” and welcomed the Pope’s appointment of Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski of the Eparchy of the Holy Family in London as Apostolic Visitator for the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic faithful resident in Ireland.
Care for Travellers
During the meeting, the Bishops noted that 8 October marks National Traveller Mental Health Day, which will include the celebration of Mass at Knock Shrine.
Regarding travelers, the Bishops said that it was unacceptable that “Travellers experience racism, discrimination, and dangers on a daily basis in Ireland” – a situation that “often forces young Travellers to hide their own identity.” They also noted the high level of mental health problems and the large number of suicides among Travelling people, which is seven times higher than in the settled community. In addition, they raised concerns about the high proportion of Travellers in the prison system in Ireland, and about the volume of financial resources returned to the exchequer relating to projects to assist Travellers.
They thanked priests, religious, and other voluntary groups for their continued solidarity and support shown to the Travelling community and called on all to work for a change of attitude in society to enable Travellers to participate more fully in the life of the community.
Safeguarding, climate crisis
The Bishops of Ireland congratulated Ms Teresa Devlin, chief executive officer of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland, on her recent appointment by Pope Francis to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
Devlin highlighted that the Church in Ireland has made great strides to ensure compliance with civil and Church child safeguarding standards in the interest of safeguarding children.
The Bishop also seized the opportunity of their plenary to welcome Pope Francis’ message to world leaders ahead of COP27, urging greater ambition in tackling the climate crisis.
As the Church continues on the way toward the Synod on Synodality in 2023, the bishops reflected further on the national Synthesis of the Consultation in Ireland for the Diocesan Stage of the Universal Synod 2021 – 2023.
The next phase – the Continental stage - will see various continental assemblies around the world meeting between next January and March. The European assembly will take place in Prague from 5 – 12 February and will be attended by the President of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, with three other delegates.
Following the continental assemblies, a further working document will then be prepared in advance of the Synod taking place in Rome in October next year.
Meanwhile, the Church in Ireland continues to plan and prepare for a National Synod Assembly while taking steps to re-engage with diocesan delegates to continue promoting and using the diocesan synthesis for ongoing dialogue and further research, as well as develop a roadmap including topics and procedures towards the National Synodal Assembly or Assemblies in 2026.
Celebrations in October
As October is “Mission month,” with World Mission Sunday falling on 23 October under the theme “You shall be my witnesses,” the Bishops highlighted the Pope’s annual appeal for spiritual and financial support “so that the life-giving work of overseas mission and missionaries can continue.”
The Bishops then recalled that 11 October marks the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and recognized how much the universal synodal process and the Irish Synodal Pathway have their roots and are a fruit of that great event of the Spirit - the largest council in the history of the Church.
Also, this year marks the centenary of the Legion of Mary, a lay apostolic association, which had its first meeting in Dublin in 1921.