President visits Buddhist hospice


A new spiritual care centre for the dying and the ill in a Buddhist retreat centre on the Beara peninsula will be a blueprint for other centres around the world, its manager, Matt Padwick, said yesterday during a visit by President Mary McAleese.

Mrs McAleese spent more than an hour at the Dzogchen Beara Retreat Centre, a Tibetan Buddhist centre set up in 1974 near Castletownbere, Co Cork. She unveiled a plaque to the centre's founder, Harriet Cornish. Ms Cornish died in 1993 and her death inspired her carers to build a spiritual care centre for the ill.

The Dalai Lama also sent a messages of support to the new care centre, which is due to be completed by May 2008.

Approximately €2.7 million has been raised to date to finance the project, half through private sponsorship in Ireland. The remainder is from members of Rigpa, the international network of 106 Buddhist centres founded by Sogyal Rinpoche, author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and a director of the Beara retreat centre.

A further €1.8 million is to be spent on the project.

The building, which will also cater for visiting family members, was not about Buddhism, it was "beyond religion", Mr Padwick said.

"In order to meet the needs of the whole person, it is important to understand a patient's needs, concerns, their feelings and beliefs - not just Buddhist beliefs - and help, with wisdom and compassion, to find a more positive way to prepare for death," Mr Padwick explained.

The "home from home" centre will not only provide for people who are dying, and their families, it will also offer complementary training for healthcare professionals in the care of the dying.

It will have four care nursing rooms, three rooms for family and friends and three studio rooms for resident staff members.

The centre will also have a large family kitchen, a circular meditation room with floor to ceiling views of the Atlantic Ocean and a treatment room. Medical and palliative care will continue to be provided by local hospitals and clinics.