The first bilateral meeting between representatives of the Catholic Church and the Irish Government took place yesterday as part of the new structured dialogue between the Government and the Churches.
The initiative was launched by the Government on 26th February this year.
Topics discussed at the meeting included the peace process in Northern Ireland, the role of Churches in building community and social cohesion, and the integration of immigrants into Irish society.
More controversial issues such as how faith based organisations should act in accordance with conscience and ethos, and stem cell research were also on the agenda. The discussions come after Catholic adoption agencies in the UK were required to accept equal opportunities regulations, which meant they could no longer reject the applications of gay and lesbian couples who wanted to adopt, simply on the basis of their sexuality.
Speaking after the meeting, a spokesperson for the Church delegation said: "It was a very constructive and helpful meeting. We look forward to exploring some of the topics raised today in more detail at future meetings, particularly the role that Churches play in building community and providing a supportive and welcoming environment for those coming to live and work in our country.
"This type of structured dialogue between the Government and Churches, Philosophical and non confessional Organisations is a very welcome development, acknowledging as it does the vital role of religious faith in the lives of so many people in Ireland and the valued contribution of so many faith-based organisations to the common good, while at the same time respecting the legitimate and necessary autonomy of Church and State."
The delegation from the Catholic Church included Archbishop Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and President of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin and Vice-President of the Irish Bishops’ Conference and Bishop Leo O’Reilly, Bishop of Kilmore and Chairman of the Bishops’ Commission on Education. Others present included Monsignor Jim Cassin, Secretary to the Bishops’ Commission on Education, Monsignor Dan O’Connor, Secretary of the Catholic Primary School Managers Association, Mr John Farrelly, Director of Counselling Services with ACCORD (the Catholic Marriage Care Service), Mr Eoin O’Mahony from the Council for Research and Development of the Irish Bishops’ Conference and Fr Timothy Bartlett from the Secretariat of the Irish Bishops’ Conference.