LEADERS of the Catholic Church in Ireland have encouraged families to return to church this Christmas after debating issues from the Dublin riots, war in the Middle East and assisted suicide.
The Irish Catholic Bishop’s Conference was held this week in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, headed by Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh.
During the winter meeting, the bishops celebrated Mass in the college chapel and offered prayers for “peace, respect for the dignity of human life, and for climate justice throughout the world”.
The topics for discussion included the “meagre state income facing asylum seekers in Ireland,” efforts to address the climate crisis at COP28 and the churches opposition to assisted suicide.
It follows meetings of the Oireachtas Committee on Assisted Dying earlier this year, where it was debated if Ireland should introduce legislation for voluntary assisted dying – something which the main churches across Ireland strongly opposed.
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Another main theme from this week’s Bishop’s conference was encouraging Catholics to return to Mass this Christmas.
The bishops stated: “The Sunday Mass is at the very heartbeat of the Church and of our personal faith.
“While some may have drifted away from regular attendance of Mass, and others may have developed the habit of continuing to watch online instead of joining the community in person, we encourage families and individuals who are able to do so, to return to Mass for Christmas and the New Year, knowing the importance of the Sunday gathering in the life of our parishes.”
On the loss of life in Israel and Palestine since the Hamas attacks on October 7 and ongoing Israeli retaliation in Gaza, the bishops prayed for those who “have suffered immensely due to conflict, displacement and destruction.”
While welcoming the release of some hostages, they also expressed disappointment at the end of the truce in recent days.
Discussing the recent riots in Dublin and a rise of anti-immigrant sentiment in Ireland, the Bishops called on people of faith “to stand up against all forms of racism, violence division, hatred, misinformation and fear.”
They also said it was important to create a “culture of encounter” between immigrant communities and Irish society.
“The riots in Dublin highlight a need to redouble efforts towards a responsible management of the current situation,” they said, calling for more efforts to plan adequate accommodation and services across all of society, so no one would feel disadvantaged.