The Irish bishops have announced plans for a year of prayer for renewal in the light of clergy sexual abuse scandals that have roiled the Church.
Using Pope Benedict XVI's guidance as the core of the initiative, the bishops hope to promote healing within the Church through reconciliation, adoration and Scripture reading.
At the conclusion of their annual meeting Oct. 19, the bishops indicated that their program would be based on suggestions made by Pope Benedict XVI in the pastoral letter he sent to Ireland’s Catholics in March.
Beginning with the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 28, the Irish Church will begin a year of prayer, penance, and spiritual renewal.
In his March 19 letter, the Pope had invited Irish Catholics to devote their ordinary Friday penances to the intention of healing and “the long-term process of restoration.” He also encouraged them to fast, pray, read the Scriptures, and works of mercy "to obtain the grace of healing and renewal for the Church in Ireland."
He also encouraged them to go to confession more often and to spend more time in prayer before the Eucharist.
The bishops said they will put these suggestions into action, recognizing the need for "profound renewal." They proposed that the "first step" in the process to be the observance of the Year of St. Matthew.
The renewal will follow the Church’s liturgical reading of the Gospel of Matthew in the Sunday Mass celebrations. This, the bishops explained, will be "an opportunity for all to avail of Scripture-based prayer to guide the renewal of the Church in Ireland at this time." In addition, the bishops will encourage Catholics to participate in Eucharistic adoration, confession and Friday penance. They will also pray the special prayer for the Church of Ireland included at the end of the Pope’s March letter.
In a statement, the bishops said they welcomed the upcoming Vatican investigation of certain dioceses as well as seminaries and religious congregations in the country. They hoped that it "will assist in purifying and healing the Church in Ireland and will help to restore the trust and hope of the faithful in our country."