US ambassador takes Communion in Christ Church `as private citizen'


The US ambassador to Ireland, Ms Jean Kennedy Smith, took Holy Communion at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin yesterday morning. A member of the leading Catholic family in the US, she attended the 11 a.m. Eucharist service alone and unannounced.

Afterwards she said she was there as a private citizen, not as a representative of any government. She had attended Christ Church last Christmas Day, with her son Stephen, and had also taken Communion, she said. She intended to go there again on Christmas Day.

In the US she had been attending Protestant churches and taking Communion for years before her appointment to Ireland. In New York she frequently attended the Presbyterian church on 5th Avenue, near her apartment, she said.

She had decided in conscience, as a Catholic, that it was a good thing to do. She also felt it was very important as a sign of respect for other people's beliefs, and as a way of drawing all together. "Religion, after all, is about bringing people together," she said. "We all have our own way of going to God."

Meanwhile, in a lengthy interview in today's Irish Times the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Desmond Connell, has again discussed his use of the word "sham" to describe Catholics taking Communion in Anglican and other Protestant churches.

"I'm very sorry for the offence," he said. "If it will help, you can put that in. I blame that offence very much on the way The Irish Times put its headline: `Taking Church of Ireland Communion a sham, says archbishop'. That was very bad."

"It was very unfortunate that I used the word `sham'," he said. "It came out, and I certainly didn't intend it in any way that would be offensive.

"The Eucharist is the very life of the church. The Second Vatican Council says that it contains the entire spiritual wealth of the church: it is the foundation of our Catholic identity. Taking Communion is an expression of faith - isn't it a pretence [to partake] if you're not buying into what you're doing and if you do not share the faith?"

He explained how he has been involved in the ecumenical movement. "I have been in Christ Church Cathedral," he said. The archbishop gave the sermon there during Christian Unity Week earlier this year.

"I was able to go along to the consecration of the Church of Ireland Bishop of Meath, and I think I am the first archbishop ever to attend a consecration. We celebrated the Eucharist there, and I was present in the community, but I stopped short of taking Communion for the good reason that the taking of Communion was an identifying of myself. What I would say of myself, I would say of every Catholic. That is the meaning of our faith."

"Part of our [problem] is that not enough stress has been laid on the Commandments. We have a certain sense of being frightened off the expounding of the Commandments in recent years."