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Diocesan Assembly - Reflection by Bishop Francis Duffy


The following is the address given by Bishop Francis Duffy at our second preparatory session for the upcoming Diocesan Assembly in May 2020

 Assembly Preparatory Meeting, 23rd November 2019

Good morning everyone. Our process of listening and discerning is a very exciting one for our local Church, in this diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois.

In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI wrote "What the Church proclaims to the world is the Word of Hope; in order to be able to live fully each moment, men and women need 'the great hope' which is "the God who possesses a human face and who has loved us to the end". Pope Benedict XVI always has very rich images of God, "the God who possesses a human face and who has loved us to the end". Beautiful. He went on to say "This is why the Church is missionary by her very nature. We cannot keep to ourselves the words of eternal life given to us in our encounter with Jesus Christ: they are meant for everyone, for every man and woman". (Verbum Domini 91). The Synod on the Word of God (2010), about which Pope

Benedict is writing, made the point "the mission of proclaiming the word of God is the task of all of the disciples of Jesus Christ based on their Baptism". (Verbum Domini 94).

What you have been doing over the past few weeks is putting your role as Baptised people into practice in a particular way, reflecting on life and on faith now, as they are, and also looking to the future. In his homily at the Mass opening the synod on the Amazon last month (October 2019), Pope Francis said that our gift of faith, this burning love for God and for our brothers and sisters, has to be constantly rekindled. He said, "Jesus did not come to bring a gentle evening breeze, but to light a fire on the earth". At this time of change for our Church, it is tempting to stand still and stand firm and to do nothing else. For the Church in Ireland these are times of rapid change. We look inwards, an exciting but also a difficult thing to do, not least because it could preoccupy us, but we do so in order to look outwards again with a refreshed vision of faith. Pope Francis said in that same homily of last month "For the Church is always on the move, always going out and never withdrawn into itself'.

Our beautiful Assembly Prayer captures many of the sentiments expressed in the submissions: courage, joy and hope, fears, hurt and pain, tears and anger, safety, freedom and feeling at home; it is a prayer from the heart and for the heart, very much in tune with reality.

This diocese is a local church where the Good News was announced for countless generations' right back to the 5th century. We may well be the first generation of believers in this ancient heartland that has carried out such an extensive listening to the realities of experience, the context in which faith is lived, and then look to how we can stoke that fire of faith in our hearts and in our families and in the parishes of our diocese.

The Church has had significant failures and dark periods throughout history. In our own time those failures have been profound, acute and criminal. The Church also has had periods of immense care for people and rich, deep transmitting of the good news throughout history. In our own time these good works include compassionate and life changing acts of mercy that rekindle hope, and help people move again from darkness to light, and from fear to hope in the Risen Christ.

The experience so far has shown that people are truly engaged and very concerned for the future of the Catholic Church, the community of believers. Reflecting on this has led me to ask questions about one key aspect, what is the purpose of having an organisation called the Catholic Church? What is at the centre of the Church, at the very core of all we do in this ancient institution, at the centre of what we do as a diocese, at the centre of what we do as a parish community? What is at the heart of being a Catholic? The answer is Jesus; Jesus, Son of God, he has to be at the core. After all, it was Jesus who gave this structure to his apostles to spread the news of his message from God. It was to this new community that he promised the Holy Spirit to help, guide and inspire them. The Church is the Body of Christ and the People of God and we are its members.

Jesus is at the very heart of this worldwide community of believers, with its multiple cultures, and languages. The significant things we do as Catholics focus on Jesus and draw us towards him. The Holy Mass is about making time to worship Jesus Christ, our Saviour, asking his forgiveness, thanking him and praying to him, receiving his living Word in scripture, receiving his real body and blood in Eucharist, bringing peace and hope. Our private and public prayer is to Jesus. Our other sacraments are recognising his presence with us at key moments, the joy of new life, at times of forgiveness, embarking into young adulthood, marriage, sickness and death. Jesus is at the centre, the source of hope, the source of joy and of meaning, the source of challenge and inspiration. It is a two way loving journey, our path to God and God's path to us.

Our mission as baptised people is to proclaim the gospel, the Good News, of Jesus Christ. The 'Good News' of Jesus Christ is mysterious and yet attractive, challenging and consoling. We do so in the way we live with others, within our environment and in our worshipping communities.

God continually invites us to get to know him; many here have expressed a desire to get to know more about him, in prayer, in knowledge of his life and of his living word as found in scripture and in the very rich teachings of the Catholic Church. Knowing more about God is part of the sense of mission that is identified from the listening process and it is also part of building capacity for that mission. May the Holy Spirit continue to guide us on our journey of discernment and planning.

Francis Duffy

Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois 23' November 2019