DUBLIN - A series of censures has brought to the fore the divisions within the Irish Church between those who seek a leaner and smaller Church that adheres more strictly to the magisterium and those who seek space to discuss Church issues.

Up to 250 nuns, priests and laypeople held a silent protest outside the Vatican Embassy April 29 to protest the doctrinal congregation’s censure of five Irish priests over their stance on issues such as the ordination of women, the ban on artificial birth control and homosexuality.

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DUBLIN - Ireland's parliament rejected legislation that would have allowed a controversial 1992 Supreme Court ruling permitting abortion in limited circumstances to take effect.

The Socialist Party motion was defeated 111-20 April 19.

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DUBLIN - Some 15,000 former residents of state-funded, church-run institutions in Ireland will be able to apply for further compensation for abuse they suffered, the government announced April 17.

The new compensation fund will be financed from the cash contributions of up to $144 million (110 million euros) offered by the 18 religious congregations involved in running the institutions. The government has already paid out nearly $1.8 billion.

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DUBLIN - Three out of four Irish who identified themselves as Catholics find the church's teaching on sexuality "irrelevant," according to new research published by the Association of Catholic Priests.

The survey -- conducted by the research association Amarach -- also showed that almost 90 percent of those surveyed believe that divorced or separated Catholics in a stable second relationship ought to be able to receive Communion at Mass. Under church law, divorced and remarried Catholics who have received an annulment may receive Communion.

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DUBLIN - The Irish Association of Catholic Priests said it is "disturbed" that the group's founder, Redemptorist Father Tony Flannery, is under investigation by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In an April 9 statement, the priests' association -- which represents about 20 percent of Ireland's 4,000 priests -- affirmed "in the strongest possible terms our confidence in and solidarity with Father Flannery, and we wish to make clear our profound view that this intervention is unfair, unwarranted and unwise."

The statement said the group "is disturbed" that Father Flannery is being "silenced."

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DUBLIN - Europe today is a culture in which God appears to be "silent and unmissed in the lives of many" the Irish bishops warn in a new pastoral letter issued March 29.

The 12-page document, "Repent and Believe the Good News," deals with the importance of repentance for the Irish Catholic Church.

In their discussion of the European context in which the Irish church is forging its path, the bishops said that today there are "many spheres of life in which even believers rarely recognize the relevance of the Gospel."

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VATICAN CITY - A Vatican-appointed investigation of the church in Ireland recognized serious shortcomings in the handling of accusations of the sexual abuse of minors, yet found that bishops, clergy and lay faithful are doing an "excellent" job in creating safe environments for children today.

The investigators found that Irish bishops need to update their child protection guidelines, establish "more consistent admission criteria" for seminarians, and formulate policies on how best to deal with clergy and religious accused of abuse.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI blessed and rang the official International Eucharistic Congress bell, which has been on tour across Ireland for nearly a year, in preparation for the world meeting in June.

An Irish delegation, led by the 2012 congress president Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, presented the Pope with the small brass bell before the start of his weekly general audience March 14. Before the Pope was driven into St. Peter's Square, he met with the delegation and rang the bell.

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DUBLIN - Cardinal Sean Brady said the Catholic Church will cooperate fully with a government-led investigation into institutional abuse being launched in Northern Ireland.

A similar inquiry in Ireland -- the Ryan Commission -- reported in 2009 and found that physical abuse was widespread and sexual abuse was endemic in many institutions for boys run by members of religious congregations.

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VATICAN CITY - The International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin will be characterized by humility, moderation and a renewed focus on the Eucharist as the source and nourishment of unity in the church, said the president of the Vatican committee charged with overseeing the gathering.

Archbishop Piero Marini, president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses, said the congress June 10-17 will reflect that this year is the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, but also that Catholics in the host country, Ireland, are still reeling from the clerical sex abuse scandal and are engaged in a process of repentance and reform.

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DUBLIN - Organizers are encouraging parishes and communities across Ireland to use the feast of St. Patrick -- March 17 -- to intensify preparation for the International Eucharistic Congress.

Their initiative, Ring for Renewal, "invites people to pause for a moment in their day to ring a bell on St. Patrick's Day and reflect on how they can be renewed as individuals and members of the church as they prepare for the congress," said Father Kevin Doran, congress secretary-general.

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DUBLIN - Pope Benedict XVI is acutely aware that recent years have been tough for Irish Catholics as a result of the clerical sex abuse scandals, said the new apostolic nuncio to Ireland.

Speaking during a Mass to mark his formal welcome as Pope Benedict's representative in Dublin Feb. 19, U.S. Archbishop Charles Brown said the pontiff understands "that these recent years have been difficult for Catholic believers in Ireland."

Archbishop Brown said the Pope was "scandalized and dismayed as he learned about the tragedy of abuse perpetrated by some members of the clergy and of religious congregations. He felt deeply the wounds of those who had been harmed and who so often had not been listened to."

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DUBLIN - Pope Benedict XVI's new representative to Ireland has promised to strengthen relations between the country and the Holy See.

Archbishop Charles Brown, a native of New York, spoke while presenting his credentials as apostolic nuncio to Ireland and dean of the country's diplomatic corps to President Michael Higgins.

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ROME - Cardinal Marc Ouellet led a penitential vigil to show contrition for the sexual abuse of children by priests and for the actions of Catholic officials who shielded the perpetrators from justice Feb. 7.

Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, presided over the vigil during a week-long symposium attended by representatives of 110 bishops’ conferences and 30 religious orders. The Feb. 6-9 conference, “Toward Healing and Renewal,” launched a global initiative aimed at improving efforts to stop clerical sexual abuse and better protect children and vulnerable adults. It was held at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University and is supported by the Vatican Secretariat of State and several other Vatican offices.

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A hundred-thousand welcomes is perhaps more students than little All Hallows College could actually accommodate, but that’s the welcome the Irish seminary extends to mature international students.

One-hundred-thousand welcomes in the Irish tongue is céad mile fåilte. And the first person to extend that Irish greeting to international students in the Renewal for Life Sabbatical program is a Canadian, Sr. Mary Ann Maxwell.

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