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Irish Catholic priests apologise for celebrating Mass with Anglican

Three Irish Roman Catholic priests have apologised for concelebrating Mass with an Anglican cleric to mark the 90th anniversary of Ireland’s 1916 Easter Rising, when Irish nationalists proclaimed independence from Britain.

The Mass took place on Easter Sunday, 16 April, at the Augustinian Priory in Drogheda in County Louth, north of Dublin. The short-lived Easter Rising 90 years earlier was put down by British troops and many of its ringleaders were executed.

The leaders of the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches in Ireland rebuked the clerics for the concelebration, the rite by which several priests celebrate Mass together. Roman Catholic rules forbid such ceremonies with Protestant or Anglican clerics.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Sean Brady said the service created "a real danger of causing widespread confusion, by raising false hopes and creating situations that are open to misunderstandings and manipulation".

The head of the (Anglican) Church of Ireland, Robin Eames, said: "Such occasions, while well intentioned, might well be misunderstood."

The Anglican priest who concelebrated in Drogheda, the Rev. Michael Graham, was reported by the Irish Times newspaper to have described the event as "a wonderful occasion" and that he had shared in the ceremony "in all its fullness".

The service also commemorated the thousands of Irish people, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, who fought at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 during the First World War.

However, in a 15 May statement, the Irish Province of the Augustinian Order, to which the three Catholic priests belong, said it regretted "the pain, confusion and damage caused as a result of the Easter Sunday Eucharistic celebration at its church in Drogheda".

It stated that the priests – Richard Goode, Noel Hession and Ignatius O’Donovan – had written to Archbishop Brady and other Catholic leaders expressing regret.

"Their letter apologises unreservedly for the ill-considered celebration and gives an absolute commitment as to future conduct in matters liturgical," the statement said.

Reacting to the apology, Brady spoke of the need for patience in inter-church relations. "We are all well aware of the pain caused by the divisions among Christians and of the need to constantly recommit ourselves to pray and work patiently for the healing of those divisions," he said.

(c) Ecumenical News International