By John Carey
The Irish bishops arc making use of the forthcoming visit of the Pope to try to woo lapsed Catholics back into the Church.
In a special pastoral letter issued last Sunday they described the visit as "an invitation to the lapsed and the careless to come to God's pardon and peace."
They appealed to all those who had "drifted away" from the Church to return and asked: "Come back, We have missed you. We need you. The Church is your Mother. She wants you back.
"You will never find happiness anywhere else. The Church's door is open and she is waiting to welcome you home."
The bishops also warned against the dangers of "contamination by materialism" and strongly condemned violence and terrorism.
The letter, called "Ireland awaits Pope John Paul II", was signed by Cardinal O'Fiaich, Archbishop Dermot Ryan of Dublin, Archbishop Joseph Cunnane of Tuam and Archbishop Thomas Morris of Cashel.
It stressed the need for a thorough spiritual preparation for the visit, which it said would inspire a great renewal of faith and devotion to the Mass and to the Blessed Sacrament.
The planned programme of spiritual and pastoral preparation would involve every parish, every age group, every school and every religious community in the country, they said.
The Pope was coming to call the people of Ireland to a new sense of urgency about their Christian lifestyle: "His coming will challenge us to measure up to our Christian responsibilities for building up a truly Christian society and working, as members of the European community, to build a Christian Europe."
On the threat of materialism the bishops warned: "Prosperity and the lure of money must not be allowed to erode our faith or corrupt our consciences." By God's grace and its own united determination Ireland would, arrive at the end of the century with no diminution of its faith or religious practice, they said.
They urged all Irishmen to put an end to their "murdering hates" and hoped that the weeks leading LIP to the visit would not be marred by any more killings, armed robbery or violence. Such things abominable at any time now had a special element of "outrage and scandal".