Bishops concerned about impact of North tensions on social cohesion

Catholic leaders affirm committment to greater diversity of schools’ patronage

The Catholic bishops have expressed concern that rising tensions in Northern Ireland are having "a very significant impact on the social cohesion of the whole island" in Ireland.

At the conclusion of their summer meeting on Wednesday evening, they also repeated their committment to more diverse patronage in Irish schools which would reflect “the reality of the increasingly diverse society in our country.”

They repeated a commitment “to ensuring that dioceses can legally share whatever information they have in relation to adopted persons” and have written to Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman requesting a meeting to discuss how this might be done in the context of his birth information and tracing heads of bill, which they welcomed.

The Bishops also called on the Government “to progress the Occupied Territories Bill to recognise the State of Palestine” and “commended the unanimous passing of the motion in Dáil Éireann that condemned Israel’s “de facto annexatio” of Palestinian territory as a violation of the fundamental principles of international law.”


At their virtual meeting, which began on Monday and concludedon Wednesday , they said "the stresses in political unionism, as well as the continued public policy and economic reaction to Brexit and to the Northern Ireland Protocol" were having "a very significant impact on the social cohesion of the whole island community."

They appealed to “political and civic leaders to avoid harsh words and to act instead through dialogue to provide ways to offer everyone hope for the future. Political leaders were urged to be constructive in their engagement during negotiations over the coming days and, as a priority, to apply their skill and experience to maintain the continued functioning of the Assembly.”

On education, they affirmed their commitment to greater diversity in patronage of schools in Ireland, where 91 per cent of primary schools are currently Catholic-run.

They “would like to move as quickly as possible to a situation in which the State supports parents with the provision of schools whose ethos genuinely reflects what they want for their children. Going forward, bishops wish to have a fruitful dialogue about the best way of ensuring that our school system reflects a diversity of provision.”

In their view “parental choice is paramount, and that choice must be given full expression in any reconfiguration process.”

Regarding their pathway towards “a national synodal assembly, or assemblies, within the next five years”, announced at their spring meeting, they thanked people “for the over 550 submissions received from the public as part of the initial phase.”

They appointed Dr Nicola Brady as chair of the Synodal steering committee with vice-chairs Andrew O'Callaghan and Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy.

Once again they encouraged Catholics to get vaccinated against Covid "not only for their own good, but for the protection of life and the health of those who are vulnerable." They also commended commitments by the G7 group of nations last week "to make large quantities of Covid-19 vaccines available to developing countries and by the EU to support the expansion of vaccine production in Africa. "

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times