Members of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference gathered this week in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, for its Winter 2023 General Meeting.
The Bishops referenced the conflict in the Holy Land and prayed for all the people who since 7 October have suffered immensely due to conflict, displacement and destruction.
An Advent message of hope for peace was presented for dissemination to all.
The Bishops stated, “we have now begun our Advent journey, a time of patient waiting and joyful hope. As we look forward to the celebration of Christmas 2023, we pray to the Lord for an end to wars across the globe and for justice and peace to reign in our uncertain world. We remember most of all the innocent, as they suffer most in terms of death, injury, hunger and displacement. The coming of Christ brought light into a darkened world, ‘a light that darkness could not overpower’ – and we earnestly pray for light at this time.”
The Bishops offered prayers of thanksgiving as 2023 marks the 800th anniversary of Saint Francis of Assisi constructing the first Christmas crèche in a cave in Greccio, Italy. Bishops reiterated Pope Francis’ words that a key message of the Nativity scene is that the mystery of Christmas ‘loves to hide within what is infinitely small … [the Nativity] is like a living Gospel overflowing from the pages of Holy Scripture’.
Bishops invite people to share a picture (or video) of the crib at home or in the workplace, along with a message. Every crib has its own story, so sharing Christmas memories of the crib would provide inspiration to many people during this season of good will and celebration for Christian families.
Conflict in the Holy Land and the human impact on children
Bishops prayed for the people of the Holy land who since 7 October have suffered immensely due to conflict, displacement and destruction. While welcoming the release of some hostages, bishops lamented the end of the truce in recent days and called for minds, hearts and actions to be as one in bringing the conflict to an end. They express their particular concern about the violation of international humanitarian law, which requires the protection of civilians by all parties to conflict, and the fact that so many people in Gaza do not have the basic necessities for living at present.
Bishops stated, “We echo the words of Pope Francis, as we hope and pray ‘that all those involved can reach a permanent ceasefire agreement as soon as possible and find solutions other than arms, trying to take courageous paths to peace.’ From our own experience in Ireland, we know that all conflict and war must end in dialogue. While recognising that there are diverging political views on the issues involved, we are confident that peacebuilding and a commitment to sustained hope and settlement must be the political response to this.”
Bishops noted that Trócaire works with local partner organisations in Palestine, including in Gaza, where it is supporting the immediate humanitarian work of Caritas Jerusalem and Medical Aid for Palestinians. As it is estimated that, of the 450 million children in the world – one out of every six young people – live in conflict zones, bishops encouraged all people of goodwill to support Trócaire’s Christmas Appeal which focuses on children and families in places such as Gaza, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Ukraine, which are affected by conflict. See trocaire.org.