Review of the Year 2013

Paul Keenan offers a round up of stories covered by The Irish Catholic in 2013


The year begins with Pope Benedictís World Day of Peace Message promoting respect for life from conception to natural death. His message comes just days after Cardinal Se·n Brady uses his Christmas address to urge the Irish faithful to use their voices to defend the unborn in 2013. In a significant first, Taoiseach Enda Kenny fails to issue the traditional message of welcome for the Popeís words on World Day of Peace.

Arson attack

There is condemnation in Northern Ireland after an arson attack on St Matthewís Catholic church in the Short Strand area of Belfast puts a group of special needs children at risk. The attack is linked to the ongoing loyalist protest against restrictions on the flying of the Union flag at City Hall in Belfast.

On the 19th of the month, a massive pro-life rally gathers 25,000 people to Dublinís Merrion Square in a joint call on Government to shelve plans to legislate for abortion in Ireland.

Fr Tony Flannery

Following claims by Fr Tony Flannery, co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests that he is facing excommunication for his call for discussions around the subject of women priests, Vatican sources dismiss the claim and insist no threat was made against the Redemptorist priest.

There is shock and condemnation at news on January 25 of the murder during a robbery in Lordship, Co. Louth, of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe.

Bishop of Cloyne

The new Bishop of Cloyne, William Crean, is ordained at a ceremony in St Colmanís Cathedral, Cobh, on January 27.

The death is announced on January 31 of former Archbishop of Tuam, Dr Joseph Cassidy.



The treatment of women in Irelandís Magdalen laundries is laid bare this month with the release of a report into the system where some 100,000 women lived and worked since 1922. Despite findings of ìsignificantî State involvement in the laundries, where women claim to have been treated no better than slaves, Taoiseach Enda Kenny at first refuses to offer an apology.

Pope Benedict

There is shock worldwide on February 11 when Pope Benedict XVI announces that he will become the first Pope in 600 years to surrender the Throne of St Peter. Tributes flow in from leaders religious and political for ëthe teaching Popeí.

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the Irish bishopsí overseas development agency TrÛcaire.

Galway Novena

There is outrage at the annual Galway Novena when the local council blitzes parking violations around the cityís cathedral. The council dismisses accusations that the ticketing was a revenue-raising exercise and insists it had appealed for considerate parking this year after years of problems with illegal parking.

Don Bosco

The relics of St Don Bosco begun a 13-day visit to Ireland on February 23.

Final engagements

All eyes turn to Rome on February 28 as Pope Benedict XVI undertakes his final engagements before becoming Pope Emeritus and travelling by helicopter to Castel Gandolfo. The date of the conclave to choose the departing Pontiffís successor is awaited.



Speculation begins to mount ahead of the papal conclave in Rome, with numerous names emerging as frontrunners. The Irish Catholic features a story on March 7 reporting that ëLatin Americans hope new Pope understands themí.

Pro-life amendment

In Northern Ireland, Sinn FÈin moves to block a pro-life amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill which would have dealt a blow to private clinics providing terminations. All of the partyís 29 MLAs backed a petition of concern, a device in the Assembly requiring cross community support for an issue to pass successfully through the chamber.

Habemus Papam! At 7.06pm Rome time, on March 13, white smoke over the Sistine Chapel brings joy to the thousands who have waited in a rain-soaked St Peterís Square for news of a new Pope. Shortly after, the Argentinian Jesuit, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio emerges onto St Peterís balcony to greet the world as Pope Francis and the pontificate of the 266th successor to St Peter begins.

Fresh audits

The Irish Government launches fresh audits into religious ordersí handling of abuse allegations, despite the work of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church along the same lines.

Winter fuel allowance

The Society of St Vincent de Paul calls on the Government to consider extending the winter fuel allowance for families as temperatures plunge across Ireland. Northern Ireland is especially hard hit by driving blizzards and numerous farmers lose entire herds and flocks to the elements.

Thousands attend events across Ireland to mark Holy Week and Easter Sunday, March 31.



Government research reveals a low level of support for the handover of Catholic schools. The new findings are released as the Government presses ahead with plans for the closure of small schools, that is, those with less than four teachers or under 80 pupils. Parish priests around the country warn against such closures, stating that rural isolation will be the result of the drive.

Abortion debate

The Irish Medical Organisationís annual conference hears submissions on the abortion debate before rejecting a motion to support legislation in line with the X case, and motions on abortion in cases of incest and rape.

Margaret Thatcher

There are divided reactions in Ireland and beyond to news on April 8 that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died.

The universal Church marks the 50th anniversary of Pope John XXIIIís encyclical, Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) on April 11.

New bishop for Limerick

A three-year wait for a new bishop for Limerick ends on April 14 with the ordination, at St John’s Cathedral in the city, of Bishop Brendan Leahy.


The inquest into the death of Savita Halappanavar in Galway Hospital uncovers a catalogue of medical errors which counter initial claims against ëCatholic Irelandí as being the root cause of the womanís death in 2012.

Armagh welcomes Coadjutor Archbishop Eamon Martin on April 21. At 51, he is the youngest prelate in the country.



May 5 sees the 125th anniversary of The Irish Catholic newspaper.

Parishes across rural Ireland rally around farmers as they struggle to source feed for their livestock. A bad 2012 summer combined with the drastic cold snap early in 2013 means stocks of feed are dangerously low. ìFarmers are at their wits end,î reports Archbishop Dermot Clifford of Cashel and Emly.

Knock plays host to thousands of pilgrims who gather for the Choose Life Vigil on May 4. Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick urges pilgrims to make their beliefs clear to legislators on the abortion issue.

Safeguarding procedures

The head of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, Ian Elliott, says he is encouraged by the findings of the latest audit of religious congregations, which he describes as ìa positive pictureî in relation to safeguarding procedures. The boardís annual report shows it received just one new abuse allegation for the year 2012.

Two labour TDs, Aodh·n ” RÌord·in and Anne Ferris, are secretly recorded by a pro-life activist as they admit that the proposed abortion legislation is simply a starting point for further liberalisation of abortion provision in Ireland.

Bail-out for struggling schools

It is revealed that parishes are being forced to financially bail-out struggling schools facing the loss of electricity and gas supplies as austerity continues to bite in Ireland.

A senior Vatican official, Msgr Jacques Suaudeau, suggests that Catholic politicians should resign rather than support proposed abortion legislation, and those who do support it are placing themselves outside the Church. Meanwhile, the Labour Party Chairman, Colm Keaveney TD, states that he cannot support the propose legislation in its current form.



Despite having already paid almost Ä18 million to settle clerical sexual abuse claims, the Dublin archdiocese reports that it must find another Ä6 million to finally settle all historic claims. There are some 55 cases still ongoing.

Open letter to Government

A group of 64 Irish General Practitioners issues an open letter to Government decrying the move towards abortion.

Coadjutor Archbishop Eamon Martin accuses the Government of issuing ìspinî to mislead the people that its abortion legislation is ìlife-savingî.

National Vigil for Life

June 8 sees another National Vigil for Life in Dublin, drawing some 40,000 demonstrators against abortion.

Responding to criticism from the bishops of the abortion legislation, Taoiseach Enda Kenny declares he is ìa Taoiseach who happens to be Catholic but not a Catholic Taoiseachî. Meanwhile, a poll conducted for Family & Life reveals that almost nine in 10 people want the abortion issue decided by referendum.


The Society of St Vincent de Paul warns that the poorest of the poor in Ireland are turning increasingly to moneylenders to afford the basic essentials.

G8 nations

Leaders of the G8 nations gather at Lough Erne in Fermanagh on June 17 for talks on international issues such as the civil conflict in Syria and trade.

Pope Francis marks his first 100 days as Pontiff on
June 20.



There is joy at news from the Vatican that a second miracle linked to the intercession of Blessed John Paul II has been approved, clearing the way to his canonisation.

The Jesuit youth outreach service, Magis Ireland, announces it is to close due to financial pressures.

Marching season

As the annual marching season in Northern Ireland once again becomes violent, Bishop Donal McKeown accuses elements within both communities of perpetuating division in a ìpermanent political battleî.

Lumen Fidei

Thousands of people take to the streets of Dublin in glorious sunshine for the latest massive pro-life rally.

Pope Francisí first encyclical, Lumen Fidei is published this month. The Pontiff credits his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict for bringing the first draft to near-completion before he stepped aside in February.

Protection of Life Bill

Following a late-night sitting the D·il votes, by 127 to 31, in favour of the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill.

The Diocese of Kerry officially welcomes Bishop Ray Browne to lead the faithful there during his ordination ceremony at St Maryís Cathedral in Killarney on July 21.

World Youth Day

During his official visit to Brazil to mark World Youth Day, Pope Francis issues a call for the Church to become more humble and to reject clericalism. His message is delivered before an estimated 3.2 million young people who pack Copacabana beach in Rio.

On July 30, President Michael D. Higgins signs the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill into law.




The passage of the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill into law is described as ìa new beginningî by pro-life groups who vow to continue the fight against abortion in Ireland.

The Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin officially welcomes Bishop Denis Nulty as Irelandís newest bishop on August 4 during a ceremony at Carlow Cathedral.

Feast of the Assumption

On the Feast of the Assumption, August 22, Drogheda, Co. Louth welcomes a group of US nuns who have set up a new convent in the town. At a ceremony in St Maryís church, the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal are joined by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown as they begin their ministry in Drogheda.

Youth 2000 Summer Festival

Over 1,000 young people gather at the Cistercian College, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary for the annual Youth 2000 Summer Festival. Meanwhile, some 150,000 people gather at Knock for the annual novena, during which Ireland was officially consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. That single event sees an attendance of 15,000 people.

Bishop Eamonn Walsh

In a dramatic move, auxiliary Bishop Eamonn Walsh is announced by the Archdiocese of Dublin as its next Vicar for Clergy. This is the first senior appointment for Bishop Walsh since his resignation on Christmas Eve 2009 when, in the wake of the Murphy Report, he lost the support of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. The resignation was not accepted by the Pope Benedict XVI.

Seamus Heaney

The death is announced, August 30, of famed poet Seamus Heaney. He was 74.




School chaplaincy services are threatened by a round of funding cuts proposed by the Labour party. Such cuts, Fianna F·ilís education spokesperson Charlie McConalogue warns, are the latest front in Labourís ìcultural crusadeî against religion in the public sphere.


Archaeologists in Drumholm, Co. Donegal uncover a site believed to be a monastic community dating to the early 7th Century. Included in the find are traces of ancient beehive huts utilised by monks.

Patrols in Northern Ireland

The Police Service in Northern Ireland increases patrols around three north Belfast schools after threats against pupils allegedly made by loyalist paramilitaries of the Red Hand Defenders. One of the schools is Holy Cross primary on Ardoyne Road, site of previous ugly scenes when loyalist mobs attempted to prevent young schoolgirls from attending classes.

Irish Embassy to the Vatican

The Government has ìno planî to reopen the Irish Embassy to the Vatican, T·naiste Eamon Gilmore states in response to a question posed by Fianna F·il.

Drogheda-based Fr Iggy OíDonovan takes a sabbatical after being moved from his post as prior of the Augustinian church in the town in the wake of a row over his conducting of a baptism during which parents were invited to pour the water over their infant. Fr Iggy denies that he is being foced from his post.

Ireland’s youngest parish priest

Irelandís youngest parish priest, Fr Patrick Donnelly, 33, assumes his new role in the parish of Collinstown in the Diocese of Meath on September 29.



Fr Kevin Doran announces his resignation from the board of the Mater Hospital following the hospitalís stated intention to comply with Irelandís new abortion legislation. ìI canít reconcile my own conscience with the statementÖbecause I feel a Catholic hospital has to bear witness,î he says.

Bishop William Lee announces his retirement, on health grounds, as Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, meaning there are now three Irish dioceses awaiting bishops.

Pro-life conference

A national conference organised by the Pro-Life Campaign is oversubscribed, forcing it to move to a larger venue at the RDS.

Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor announces that parishes there will begin clustering in 2014 to cope with the ongoing shortage of priests.

Fr Francis Duffy is ordained as Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois at a ceremony, October 6, at St Maryís Pro-Cathedral in Athlone, Co. Westmeath. St Maryís hosts the event as the diocesan cathedral, St Melís in Longford, continues its major restoration.

Equality Authority

There is criticism of an Equality Authority process around Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act 1998 ñ directly affecting school ethos – when it transpires that interested parties have barely two weeks to make their submission. Amid accusations of an ìattackî on faith schools, the date is later extended.

A report, commissioned by the Association of Catholic Priests, into the compiling of the Murphy Report, reveals that most priests of the archdiocese felt ìtarredî by revelations around abusive priests through a suggestion that most clerics turned a blind eye to events.



Long-time champion of the homeless, Fr Peter McVerry is announced as a recipient of the freedom of Dublin City, having been nominated by Lord Mayor OisÌn Quinn.

The Constitutional Convention recommendation that the law against blasphemy be replaced with more general provisions, including incitement to religious hatred, brings mixed responses. The Order of the Knights of St Columbanus argues that the law should remain unaffected.

Super-typhoon Haiyan

The worldwide community is moved by the plight of the Philippines after super-typhoon Haiyan, the largest ever recorded to touch land, devastates swathes of the country, killing thousands. The Irish Church announces that a collection intended to raise funds for Syria will now be divided between both countries as the United Nations launches a major appeal for immediate aid.

Same-sex marriage

The debate on same-sex marriage begins as the Government promises a referendum on the issue by 2015.

Irish devotees of Medjugorje insist that the Vaticanís latest instruction against gatherings at which ëapparitionsí are promised will not affect pilgrims who wish to visit the shrine in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Following his interview with The Irish Catholic newspaper, there is anger at a suggestion by the Northís Attorney general, John Larkin QC, that there should be an end to legal proceedings relating to the Troubles.

There are many tributes to Fr Alec Reid, the Redemptorist priest central to the drive for peace in Northern Ireland, following his death at the age of 82 on November 22.

Pope Francis issues his first Apoptolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) on November 26, described by observers as the Pontiffís ëroadmap to reformí.



University College Cork stands accused of ëspiritual apartheidí after it emerges that fulltime chaplaincy services are being considered for inclusion in cost-saving cuts at the third level institution.

T·naiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore indicates that he would react positively on the Irish embassy closure at the Holy See if the Holy See was willing to allow Ireland to site it and the Irish Embassy to Italy at the same location in Rome.

Nelson Mandela

World media is dominated early in the month by news on December 5 of the passing of former apartheid prisoner and South African president, Nelson Mandela, at the age of 95. As his nation mourns, tributes pour in from world leaders for Mandelaís legacy of forgiveness and unity. The same leaders travel to Johannesburg for the late leaderís December 15 funeral.

Time magazine’s Person of the Year

Pope Francis is named Time magazineís Person of the Year for 2013, an honour coming after news that the Pontiff was the most mentioned personality on Facebook this year and the most influential person on the Twitter social networking service.

The National University of Ireland is criticised after it suspends the Legion of Mary Society for distributing allegedly homophobic literature on campus.

Safeguarding audits

The latest tranche of safeguarding audits of a number of Irish dioceses and two religious congregations is released. Containing a number of criticisms, the audits nevertheless offer praise for the major improvements made within the Irish Church in the area of child safeguarding.