Church says lay Catholics will not lead Sunday services


THE CATHOLIC Communications Office has said a claim by the Irish Catholic newspaper that plans are being drawn up to allow parishes to hold Sunday services led by lay people is incorrect.

The lead story in the current edition of the newspaper begins: “The Catholic bishops are drawing up radical new plans for parishes to hold Sunday services led by lay people, as more and more communities are set to be left without a priest for the first time.”

The article goes on to say: “A ‘discussion document’ will be circulated to senior Church leaders in coming weeks, which will set our (sic) plans for what parishioners can do when there is no priest to say Mass.

“Lay people will be expected to take a lead role. However, married deacons, eight of whom have already been ordained, will also co-ordinate liturgies in the absence of a priest,” the article, by the newspaper’s deputy editor, Michael Kelly, states.

However, in a statement last night a spokesman for the communications office said the claim that Sunday services would be led by lay people was incorrect.

“Rather, over the last number of years, in relation to weekday liturgy when Mass is not celebrated, bishops have been discussing this important issue. In these discussions there is a distinction between the centrality of the celebration of the Eucharist on a Sunday, and Eucharist celebrated on a weekday,” he said.

The spokesman said bishops were “always concerned to ensure the adequate provision of opportunities for communities to gather for worship, especially in the aftermath of this year’s International Eucharistic Congress in Ireland and [given] the centrality of the Eucharist to the Catholic faith”.

“In the absence of a priest to preside at the celebration of the Mass, the church still gathers to worship God,” the statement continued.

The Irish Catholic article went on to say that a spokeswoman for Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin had confirmed to the newspaper that Dr Martin had not given permission for a nun to lead a Communion service in a Co Wicklow parish last weekend.

It cited listeners to Liveline on RTÉ Radio One, who said that parishioners who had turned up as usual for Sunday evening Mass in Blessington were led by a religious sister who led a liturgy, preached a homily and distributed Holy Communion “when no priest turned up”.

The newspaper quoted the spokeswoman as saying the incident was “unprecedented” and a “one-off event”.