Irish Hierarchy’s Statement on the Conclusion of the 1956 Maynooth Plenary Council
The Irish hierarchy issued the following statement at the conclusion of the Maynooth Plenary Council on 15th August, 1956:
By the authority of Our Holy Father the Pope and under the Presidency of the Papal Legate His Eminence Cardinal D’Alton the Irish Hierarchy, in association with representatives of the diocesan and religious clergy, has been holding at Maynooth a Plenary Council of the Irish Church. Humbly invoking the Holy Spirit to guide our deliberations and under the patronage of Our Lady, Seat Of Wisdom, we have been reviewing church legislation in this country in the light of changed circumstances since the last Plenary Council was held in 1927. Our decrees will be submitted to the Holy See for examination and approval. In due course they will be promulgated and attention will be directed to any modification they make in ecclesiastical law in Ireland.
The holding of the Plenary Council has entailed a survey of the condition of religion in Ireland today. We feel that it is proper to record on this occasion our profound sense of gratitude to God for the continuance of His abundant graces and favours and our appreciation of the manner in which our people are co-operating with them.
It is our privilege to serve a community whose love of God, loyalty to His Church and devotion to its head, the Vicar of Christ, are worthy of the highest praise. High standards of morality and of fidelity to religious duties, cordial relations between clergy and laity, sanctity of family life — these traditional features of Irish Catholicism are as manifest now as they have ever been.
In addition there are many evidences of progress towards fuller Christian living. Our country is deeply conscious of its duty to God and to religion. We have witnessed a wonderful expansion of missionary effort in Ireland at a time when religion is being cruelly persecuted in so many parts of the world. Communistic and anti-religious influences, once they have been recognised as such, have gained little support here; indeed, the reaction to them has chiefly been a more active participation by the laity in the Church’s apostolate and a wider interest in her teaching.
We have had an impressive demonstration of the faith and piety inspiring these developments in the unprecedented attendances at the Holy Week ceremonies this year.
There are, however, matters about which grave concern must exist. The extent of emigration from Ireland, with so many associated evils in the social and economic fields, is the most obvious cause of anxiety. We appeal to all our people to cultivate a greater sense of personal responsibility in this connection and as a help towards the solution of this, and many other persistent difficulties, to strive to develop more fully such virtues as industry, prudence and thrift which have always been so highly commended in Catholic teaching.
So long as emigration continues we are bound to use every means to safeguard the religious life of those who leave our country and to secure that they shall not merely preserve the faith in themselves but become, by God’s grace, the means of communicating it to others. Special measures have been taken to this end in recent years and the prayers and active assistance of all the faithful are asked in this most important field of the lay apostolate.
Through the development of modern means of communication our people at home as well as abroad are today in more direct and frequent contact with influences hostile to the faith than they have been in former times. Our defence must largely be found in a sound Christian education. Important progress has been made in the essential matter of religious instruction. The Christian formation of mind and character is, however, a larger undertaking than formal instruction and requires, in addition, the inestimable help of good example, encouragement and correction. Everyone, particularly the heads of families, can make a contribution here.
On the occasion of the Plenary Council it is opportune to remind our people that the cultivation of ideals of what is good and worthy of effort is a most important factor in progress and an essential condition for securing the observance of God’s laws. We appeal to all to co-operate with the purpose of our Council by doing all they can towards the fuller realisation of the kingdom of God among us.
On this solemn occasion we implore Almighty God to confer His abundant blessings on our clergy and people and to preserve in peace and well-being our country and its rulers.