'Sackcloth and ashes' attire urged for congress


BISHOPS AND priests taking part in the final Croke Park Mass at the Eucharistic Congress next June have been urged to wear “some modern, imaginative equivalent of the ‘sackcloth and ashes’ of the Old Testament” rather than ceremonial dress.

Fr Tony Flannery of the Association of Catholic Priests said the bishops and priests should do so “so that the celebration would be simple and humble, asking forgiveness not just for the abuse of children, but for the other abuses of power perpetrated by church people in the past”.

The Eucharistic Congress was “a real opportunity for the Irish church, but it must have no element of triumphalism about it,” he said.

In an article on the association’s website, he said that one of its priorities for the coming year was “to consistently raise the problems around ministry in our church, especially in the western world”.

A rapid decline in the number of vocations meant communities were “going to be deprived of the bread of life and of the nourishment that it provides. This is due to the rigidity of church authorities who decide that only celibate males are allowed to preside at the Eucharist. We believe that this is wrong and contrary to the mind of Jesus,” Fr Flannery added.

The association also regarded “the clustering of parishes, currently favoured by most dioceses, as an inadequate response to the problems, since it will entail priests moving rapidly from one church to another each weekend, without really belonging anywhere.

“This will be unsatisfactory, perhaps to the point of soullessness, because the person who presides at the Eucharist is meant to come from the community, not someone who whizzes in to ‘say Mass’.”

The association’s current membership is 560, about two-thirds of whom were diocesan priests, he said.

One of its “big disappointments of the [past] year was the fact that the bishops, as a body and as individuals, were unwilling to enter into discussion with us” about the new missal.

The association found this “strange, since almost all our members are very active in the ministry and working hard in the service of the church”.