The Bishops of Ireland concluded their Summer General meeting which focused on a number of key themes including, the Covid-19 pandemic and the issue of racism.
The meeting was held by video conference, due to the current restrictions in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Challenges during Covid-19
During their meeting, the bishops prayed for the repose of the souls of those who died due to COVID-19. They also acknowledged the depth of pain experienced by those who lost a loved one and offered their prayerful support to “the many people who have further suffered due to the restrictions placed on funeral rites and attendance.”
While expressing thanks to the faithful for their prayers, sacrifice and perseverance during the public health restrictions announced in March, the Bishops also noted this has also been a time of “uncertainty and anxiety with the sharpest rise in unemployment.”
In general, they said, “the experience of lockdown for priests has been both innovative and difficult. The widespread use of webcam technology provided an opportunity for online ministry and evangelization like never before, enabling many priests to keep the light of the Gospel shining during this dark period.”
But, the Bishops emphasised, “faith practice is also about community and the Covid-19 crisis has been tough on many priests at a personal level and especially for the many cocooning at this time.”
During their meeting, the bishops also published a Framework Document “to assist parishes as they prepare for the celebration again of public worship in a measured and safe way.” It consists of a checklist focusing on: initial steps; the need to follow the most up-to-date public health advice at all times; and, on liturgical matters.
Another key theme discussed at the Summer Meeting was racism, in light of the Black Lives Matter protests which have been taking place all over the world. The Bishops noted that the evil of racism is not simply an American phenomenon.
“Racism, they pointed out, “can take many forms, covert and overt, and we in Ireland need to examine our own consciences. Irish society, including our Church communities, benefits from the gifts of many people of different racial origins who contribute to our life and to the quality of life in manifold ways.” At the same time, they said, ”many people of colour, including Irish citizens, report experiences of racist rejection and discrimination.”
The Bishops underlined that “in post Covid-19 times a key priority and option for the Christian must be the promotion and defence of the equal dignity of each human person as a child of God and member of the one human family.”
Synod of Bishops
At their meeting, the Irish Bishops also welcomed the announcement by Pope Francis in March that the theme of XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2022 will be: For a synodal Church: communion, participation, and mission.