Holy days moved to following Sunday


THE Vatican has approved a decision of the Irish hierarchy to move two Catholic holy days, Ascension on May 25th and Corpus Christi on June 15th, from Thursday to the following Sunday.

This was announced in Maynooth yesterday at the end of the bishops' autumn meeting. The hierarchy has also sought approval from Rome to move all other Catholic "holy days of obligation" - except Christmas Day and St Patrick's Day - to a Sunday when they fall on a Saturday or a Monday. These are Epiphany (January 6th), the Assumption (August 15th), All Saints (November 1st) and the Immaculate Conception (December 8th).

At a press conference in Maynooth, Bishop Patrick Walsh of Down and Connor said the hierarchy had made the change because the atmosphere of a working day during the week was not conducive to celebrating such holy days.

They are known as holy days of obligation because Catholics celebrate them by attending Mass.

In the distant past people took such days off work, and many rural people continued to do so until recently. Many of them still take off August 15th and December 8th. Until the 1970s, the Dail observed a holiday on holy days.

Bishop Walsh and Bishop Laurence Ryan of Kildare and Leighlin were standing in as the hierarchy's spokesmen because Bishop Thomas Flynn is recovering from a heart by pass operation and Bishop Joseph Duffy, his predecessor, had to return suddenly to Cavan because of the death of his sister.

At its meeting, the bishops' conference elected the new Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Sean Brady, as its president in succession to Cardinal Daly. He will serve out the cardinal's remaining year as president before putting himself forward again next year for a three year term. It has been customary for the Archbishop of Armagh to fill this position.

Dr Ryan also announced the setting up of a National Committee for the Celebration of the Third Millennium of the Christian Era under his convenorship. Four other Catholic bishops will serve on the committee, which will also co opt priests, religious and laity. Its task will be to coordinate the church's celebrations up to and including the millennium, a project close to the Pope's heart.

Dr Ryan told The Irish Times that no ecumenical events had yet been discussed, but his committee would be in touch with the other principal churches to organise some ecumenical celebration of the millennium.

The bishops also issued a statement on Northern Ireland. It did not mention the IRA. Noting the "breakdown of relations between neighbours and between communities" in recent months, it said people were "asking what has gone wrong."

The hierarchy said this was not the time to apportion blame; the challenge was to live out Christ's message of love and forgiveness.