THE Catholic hierarchy is to step up its opposition to the Government's abortion legislation over the coming days, the Primate of All Ireland has confirmed.
Speaking outside St Peter's Church in Drogheda following a Mass to honour the martyred Irish Archbishop of Armagh, St Oliver Plunkett, Cardinal Sean Brady said the hierarchy will issue another strongly-worded and wide-ranging statement today outlining their opposition to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.
"The battle is not yet lost," Dr Brady said in relation to Wednesday evening's vote.
He acknowledged Saturday's call at the 'All Ireland Rally for Life' for Article 27 of the Constitution to be invoked.
Thousands of protestors had turned out to the pro-life rally in Dublin. The group of up to 50,000 marched on Leinster House in the first public protest since the expulsion of four Fine Gael deputies who failed to support the Government's abortion legislation. Speaking yesterday, Dr Brady said: "There are various ways to challenge but those are for the lawyers to work out and we have to see what the final vote outcome is," he said.
However, he referred again to his statement last week in which he urged politicians denied the right to exercise their freedom of conscience to challenge it in the courts.
The cardinal said that even if the legislation is passed, the church may back efforts to pursue other options.
Today's letter from the bishops, he said, would be to all members of the Oireachtas.
He said the focus over the coming days would be on rejecting abortion and promoting life.
His comments came as a number of bishops spoke publicly on the issue.
The Bishop of Ferns hit out at the lack of any official political opposition to the bill warning that the 'whipped' support for it has undermined democracy in Ireland.
Speaking at the National Shrine in Knock yesterday, Bishop Denis Brennan criticised the lack of a free vote for TDs and said he had "huge admiration" for those TDs, who despite "massive pressure to toe the party line" had "voted and will vote with their conscience."
Meanwhile, the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Charles Brown, was given prolonged applause by the packed church in Drogheda as he recalled the words of Blessed John Paul II at Drogheda in 1979 to remind the people of Ireland of the inviolability of human life and the importance of conscience.
In his homily Archbishop Brown referred to the Irish Constitution's "explicit guarantee" of the freedom of conscience to every citizen.
Separately, in Downpatrick, Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor hailed the courage of those TDs who refused to "bend to the weavers of party political mantras".