Every bishop in Ireland will undertake a pilgrimage to Knock Shrine on Sunday 14 November to offer Mass for all who died on the island during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The announcement was made following the bishops’ autumn general meeting in Maynooth last week.
The 26 dioceses will be represented at the pilgrimage to the National Marian Shrine in Co Mayo and the liturgy will also see prayers of thanksgiving offered for all those who “so selflessly sacrificed so much during the pandemic”.
In their meeting, the bishops highlighted the distress caused by the pandemic’s restrictions which, over the past nineteen months, limited the number of people who could mourn together for a loved one and restricted the customary supports offered “at this most sensitive time” for families.
They also noted with “deep concern” the increase in the number of people worldwide threatened by humanitarian crises which are driven by the triple threat of the Covid-19 pandemic, conflict and climate change.
Parishes throughout Ireland will hold a special church collection on 6 - 7 November in support of Trócaire’s work to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in East Africa, where up to 30 million people currently face life-threatening food shortages.
In some of the countries in which Trócaire is working, less than 5% of the population has been vaccinated for Covid and infection rates are up to 50 per cent.
The development agency has warned that an additional 200 million people have fallen into poverty globally as a result of the Covid crisis.
The bishops emphasised that wealthier countries, while protecting their most vulnerable citizens, also have a moral responsibility to ensure that the populations of developing countries have equal, rapid and effective access to Covid vaccines.
They also discussed the recent letter to them from the Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien, asking the Church to identify property it owns that could potentially be used for housing.
In his letter to Archbishop Eamon Martin, president of the Irish Bishops Conference, Minister O’Brien highlighted the challenges of the current housing crisis and asked the Church to identify land or vacant buildings that could be used for building thousands of houses needed year on year to meet the current shortage. The bishops are expected to respond to the Minister’s letter over the coming days.
On the issue of climate action, they appealed to the public to support the global Healthy Planet, Healthy People campaign, which seeks to encourage political leaders to take strong action at COP15 on biodiversity and on climate change at COP26.