Bishop asks confirmation children to give cathedral cash
CHILDREN have been asked to contribute their confirmation money towards the restoration of a cathedral, which was gutted by fire.
Bishop Colm O'Reilly used confirmation ceremonies around his diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise to ask children to donate a proportion of their money for a new statue in St Mel's Cathedral in Longford.
But the request raised eyebrows among some church-goers, who felt that the church was putting pressure on youngsters to contribute financially.
One visitor to St Matthew's Church in Ballymahon, who had travelled to see his nephew confirmed last weekend, said he was "shocked" by the suggestion.
"Children are very vulnerable at that age," he said. "The whole thing seemed to be prepared in advance and reiterated in the confirmation ceremony. The entire focus of the sermon seemed to be put on money."
But diocesan spokesman Fr Tom Murray said the idea came from children who wished to help restore the cathedral.
More than €2m in damage was caused to St Mel's as a result of a fire on Christmas Day last year.
"In the last few months since the fire, we've received a lot of letters from schools around Longford," said Fr Murray.
"A lot of the children are writing in saying they want to do something for the cathedral. Most of them would have already been there for weddings, christenings, so it means a lot to them. "This year, the bishop meets with each confirmation class about a week before the big day and tells them about his suggestion to donate a small amount towards a new statue for the cathedral. If they decide to give money, their names will be recorded and will be given an honourable place on the base of the statue once it is completed.
"But we also decided that absolutely no more than €5 should be given by any one child. And no one is obliged to donate -- it's merely a suggestion."
The bishop's message also raised questions over whether the cathedral was fully insured.
"The bulk of the insurance will cover the cost of rebuilding the cathedral," Fr Murray added. "But if we want additional items, we're going to have to raise a lot.
"This is why there will be a fund for the enhancement of the cathedral, and to put in it things that weren't there before and that insurance won't cover."
When work on building the original cathedral began in 1840, local youths each donated a penny.