The General Meeting of the Irish Bishops has ended in Maynooth (1-3 October). Discussion focused on the World Meeting of Families which took place in Dublin at the end of August: the Bishops renewed their sincere and heartfelt thanks to all those who, in various ways, had contributed to that “international celebration of faith in Ireland”. Now it is time to reflect on the legacy of this event. The meeting in Maynooth also tackled the issue of abuse: the “Bishops acknowledge the anger and dismay experienced by many” following the “shocking” reports over the summer concerning the “abuse of children and its cover-up”. They welcomed Pope Francis’ decision to summon the presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences to address the issue. Meanwhile, the delicate work of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland continues. Even the Pope, in his address to the Bishops in August, “acknowledged the exemplary safeguarding standard provided by the National Board”. The latter is preparing a national conference on the theme “Be not afraid” (Kilkenny, 26-27 October).
There are thousands of volunteers in parishes throughout Ireland “whose commitment and vigilance to safeguarding children greatly underpins public confidence in the Church’s role in this area”. The Bishops in Maynooth also discussed the “multi-dimensional damage that abuse can cause to an individual, including to her/his relationship with God”. The tool “Towards Peace”, established in 2014 to help victims to overcome their spiritual trauma, remains in place. The Bishops also addressed a special thought to the Synod that has just begun, which is attended by Mgr. Eamon Martin of Armagh and Donal McKeown of Derry, and discussed the decision by the Government to hold a referendum on 26 October next to remove the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution of Ireland: indeed, they reaffirmed that the current reference “is largely obsolete” and gives rise to “concern” because of the way “such measures have been used to justify violence and oppression against minorities in other parts of the world”.