Bishops Exhort Irish to Be Good Neighbors

Set Aside Jan. 2 as Day of Prayer

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MAYNOOTH, Ireland, DEC. 14, 2010 (Zenit.org).- There is no substitute for good neighborliness and human friendship, even in times of financial distress, say the bishops of Ireland.

A statement today from the Irish Bishops’ Conference affirmed this reflection, made as the prelates gathered for a special one-day meeting in lieu of their Winter 2010 General Meeting, which was postponed last week due to bad weather.

The bishops discussed issues ranging from the apostolic visitation ongoing in Ireland to the Eucharistic Congress scheduled for 2012 in Dublin. They also considered the Friday Penance initiative, which sprang from the Pope’s letter to Irish Catholics in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis; and the campaign to promote lectio divina and the presence of a Bible in every home.

They released a full statement in regard to the economic situation of Ireland.

The prelates pointed to “exceptional levels of fear, anger and disillusionment” resulting from the economic reality. “Demands for assistance with basic things like food, fuel and clothing from organizations such as St. Vincent de Paul are up as much as 35% from this time last year. In Northern Ireland, the number presenting as homeless has almost doubled in the past six years, while in the Republic it has doubled in the past 16 years.”

The Irish bishops reflected that these challenges would make it “easy to descend into a culture of negativity, defeatism and despair.”

But, although admitting “important questions have to be asked about how this situation has arisen,” they cautioned against “a preoccupation with blame and recrimination alone,” since this would “distract from the urgent task of building a more just, sustainable and prosperous future.”

Hope

The prelates contended that one of the “strongest grounds for hope” is “that Ireland is blessed with people of extraordinary generosity, good neighborliness and social concern.”

“Knowing that someone cares, that someone is willing to listen and help can mean as much to a person or family in financial distress as the help they receive with material needs,” they said. “There is no substitute for good neighborliness and human friendship.

“We take this opportunity to appeal for a new mobilization of good neighborliness and practical care for others in our local communities, of people giving generously of their time and talents as well as their money and goods to tackle poverty and social exclusion. […]

“Mindful of the practice of the early Church of the sharing of goods so that no-one was in need (Acts 2:44), we ask individuals and parishes to reflect on how they can contribute to a practical ‘communion of goods’ at this time, sharing with others not only money but also food, clothing and other material goods they are not using or have to spare.”

The prelates designated the first Sunday of the new year as a day of prayer for the needs of all of Ireland.

They asked parishes from North and South “to pray for politicians, civil servants, economists and those who order our commercial, economic and financial life that they will receive the wisdom and courage to build our economic future on the principles of justice, solidarity and the common good with a particular concern for the vulnerable and the poor.”

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