Bishops discuss visit to Irish congress in 2012
THE country's bishops are expected to be briefed today on the growing likelihood Pope Benedict will attend the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in June 2012.
Cardinal Sean Brady and Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin will also discuss preparations for an international probe ordered by Pope Benedict into child protection measures.
The bishops are meeting today in Maynooth.
The four archbishops led by Cardinal Brady will also report to their colleagues on recent talks with Vatican officials and the four church leaders from England, the US and Canada, who will conduct the probe.
A major clash between Stormont's First Minister and the hierarchy was signalled yesterday by Bishop Donal McKeown, chairman of the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education.
On the eve of their three day autumn meeting, Bishop McKeown called on Peter Robinson and his Democratic Unionist Party to recognise the fundamental right of parents to opt for faith-based education for their children.
He was responding to a speech by Mr Robinson last Friday objecting to the state providing and funding church schools, which he denounced as "a benign form of apartheid".
Citing the need to cut costs, he claimed it was "absurd" to allow different education sectors, and he urged the creation of a single body to oversee all schools.
But last night Bishop McKeown insisted that the right of parents to send their children to "faith schools" was guaranteed by the European Convention for Human Rights.
"It is also the hallmark of a stable and pluralist society.''
Bishop McKeown pointed out that parents who choose faith-based schools for their children paid taxes toward the provision of that education, and the Catholic Church has also contributed substantial funding and resources for the provision of Catholic schools over generations, which had ultimately saved the taxpayer money.
He said Catholic schools were committed to welcoming pupils of all backgrounds and to building a cohesive society in the service of the common good.