The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland has signalled that the bishops are ready to stand up for the Church's position on abortion ahead of next year's referendum on the Eighth Amendment.
In his homily for the episcopal ordination of Fr Alan McGuckian, the country's first ever Jesuit bishop, Archbishop Eamon Martin said the bishops were seeking to "present in public discourse 'a coherent ethic of life' encompassing our precious teaching about the sacredness of all human life and the dignity of the person" and the centrality of the family.
Addressing up to 1,000 family, friends and Church representatives as well as civic leaders gathered in the Cathedral of Saints Eunan and Columba in Letterkenny for the ordination of the new bishop of Raphoe, Dr Martin called for a conversation about "what constitutes a 'good life' and a 'flourishing life' for communities as well as for individuals".
Dr Martin urged the new bishop, who hails from Cloughmills in Co Antrim, to proclaim the Church's message at all times whether it is welcome or unwelcome.
Speaking to the Irish Independent after the solemn ceremony, the Archbishop of Armagh said it was "really important" for the voice of faith to be part of any national conversation about what values Irish society needs for the good of its communities.
"From the Church's point of view, in public discourse, we try to present a coherent ethic of life. We don't see the life issue as being a separate issue but actually the core issue upon which all other ethical values are built and founded," he said.
The two brothers hold the Book of the Gospels over the head of the new bishop. Photo: Liam McArdle
"It makes no sense for us to be engaged in any discussion about values in this society which doesn't respect the most fundamental value of all, which is the gift of human life and the dignity of the human person."
Asked about next year's referendum, he said the Church would engage in conversations about the Eighth Amendment. He underlined that "no matter what happens in referendums or votes, this still remains our fundamental teaching and one which we will try to bear witness to."
Bishop McGuckian told the Irish Independent the Church had "an utterly compelling vision about life from the very beginning to the very end".
The ordination Mass was concelebrated by Bishop McGuckian's two brothers, Fr Bernard McGuckian and Fr Michael McGuckian.