The Irish bishops reiterated their defense of the family founded on marriage between man and woman, urging parliamentarians to reconsider this position in view of the adoption of a law on “civil partnership” which they claim would disrupt the statute of marriage. The appeal was voiced in the final statement released upon the conclusion of the Summer General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference held a few days ago. The response to Pope Benedict XVI’s Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, the upcoming Apostolic Visitation to Ireland, the Year for Priests, the new edition of the Roman Missal, the Day for Life and the 2012 Eucharistic Congress are the other themes broached by the bishops. The family founded on marriage. The bishops asked parliamentarians to reconsider their document on marriage issued in March before voting on the “Civil Partnership Bill”, which “seeks to give same-sex relationships a standing which will be as similar as possible to marriage”. The Bill will not permit adoption by same-sex couples but “in most other respects, including tax and social welfare purposes, same-sex civil partnerships will be regarded as being equal to marriage”. The stand of the Catholic Bishops is clear: the bill “is not compatible with seeing the family based on marriage as the necessary basis of the social order and as indispensable to the welfare of the Nation and State”. In the document the bishops reaffirm “the right of individuals to the free exercise of conscience” and ask the Government “to support a free vote for all members”.Pastoral letter and apostolic visitation. The bishops decided to establish a preliminary task group to explore the potential for a “multi-disciplinary analysis of the Irish context to bring new or additional insight to research already conducted or underway” and during the meeting placed major emphasis on Pope Benedict XVI’s Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland on sexual abuse. In the statement the Bishops’ Conference makes known that the bishops agreed to grant greater attention to “the role of lay faithful” in the Church’s life, and to devote the year 2011 to develop initiatives around renewing prayers and fasting specifically for the intentions set out in the Pastoral Letter. The prelates welcome the Apostolic Visitation to Ireland announced on May 31st by the Holy See, due to take place in the fall. With this initiative, the bishops write in the statement, “the Holy See intends to offer assistance to bishops, clergy, religious and lay faithful in our response to the situation caused by the appalling and criminal cases of abuse perpetrated by some priests and religious upon minors. Bishops look forward to finding out details regarding the Apostolic Visitation in Ireland. An important objective of Apostolic Visitation will be to contribute to spiritual renewal of the Church in Ireland”. Roman Missal, Eucharistic congress, Day for Life. Bishops welcomed the recent completion of the translation of the Third Edition of The Roman Missal and its approval by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments whose final editing for use at Masses in Ireland is due towards the end of 2011. “A new edition of the Latin Missal was issued in 2002 and this new translation will replace the current Missal we have used since 1975. Since 1975 there have been many additions to the Missal. New feasts have been added to the Liturgical Calendar, new Eucharistic Prayers were issued and a new Calendar”, states the communiqué. The Feast of Corpus Christi (Sunday June 6) saw the launch of a pastoral programme to assist people in the journey of preparation ahead of the next Eucharistic Congress, which takes place in Ireland in June 2012. Bishops expressed gratitude to all who contributed generously to the collection on 6 June at Masses throughout the Country and to those “who have already given so much time and energy to the preparatory work for the Congress”, and informed that in September volunteers will be selected and that a competition will be held for Irish composers of sacred music to compose the hymn of the Congress. On October 3 Ireland will celebrate the Day for Life. This year the common theme of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales is “the meaning of Christian death and care for the dying”. “Life is a gift we hold from God, who not only gives life but redeems it. Death does not break the bonds of love”, the bishops state in the Pastoral Letter for the Day that will be issued next October 3. “No matter how short it may be, or whatever its condition, every life has a purpose and contains a grace. The Christian life is not specifically protected from illness, pain or death, yet we know that even in these experiences we can find God and be a witness to Him, our Lord in life and in death”.
The final statement of the bishops' assembly