US ambassador attends service at Christ Church


"Following Church of Ireland custom, Holy Communion is offered to all who, within their own Christian tradition, are regular communicants," read a paragraph on the leaflet for the 11 a.m. Sung Eucharist at Dublin's Christ Church Cathedral yesterday.

Another paragraph invited the congregation to coffee in the crypt afterwards.

There were fewer present than two weeks previously when the President, Mrs McAleese, visited. There were many young people, some families, and the American ambassador sitting alone.

The gospel concerned the original Mary and her visit to Elizabeth, then pregnant with John the Baptist. "Blessed are you among women . . ." said Elizabeth. ". . . and blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."

And as they said the Nicene Creed, the congregation recited its belief in "one holy, Catholic and apostolic church".

In his sermon, Archdeacon Brian Snow spoke of the Eucharist and Orders, how "at the heart of every Eucharist is an invitation from Christ himself".

He called for prayers for those at the beginning of their ministry, for priests and those who had served as priests.

He made no reference to recently repeated Roman Catholic assertions challenging the validity of those priests, or the 1896 declaration of Pope Leo XIII that Anglican Orders are "absolutely null and utterly void".

Among those prayed for afterwards was "our President, Mary McAleese", and "Our Father" was simply "in heaven", without "which", "who" or "art".

At Communion people went to the high altar to receive, among them the US ambassador. When the service ended she made her own way down to the crypt, where she had coffee while asking staff about "my friend Archbishop Empey", the Church of Ireland's Archbishop of Dublin. She talked to The Irish Times about taking Communion in Protestant churches and about the Catholic writer Thomas Merton.

Two young Americans, who had been sitting in front of her at the service, came over to say hello. "You were very edifying saying your prayers," she told them. One said he had been to school in Arkansas, and she told him he was "in very good company, the best company in the world". President Bill Clinton is from Arkansas.

The celebrant at the service, Canon John Bartlett, principal at the Church of Ireland Theological College, came over and introduced himself. She accompanied him on a guided tour of the crypt.