Message of hope lifts spirits as 3,500 brave cold for dawn Mass
THEY emerged from the shadows at dawn, braving the cold and the dark to hear a message of hope.
More than 3,500 climbed Mount Leinster in Co Carlow early yesterday morning to attend Easter Sunday Mass at dawn.
Pilgrims began arriving from before 4am to be present for the traditional ceremony, which was celebrated by Bagenalstown parish priest Fr Declan Foley and curate and newspaper columnist Fr Paddy Byrne.
Fires burned on the slopes of Mount Leinster and traditional ceilidh music was played as the crowds gathered.
They arrived to hear a message of hope in a time of strife for the Catholic Church and the country as a whole.
This was emphasised by a ceremony with doves, symbolising that hope, as well as the enthusiasm of the large crowds.
As the sun rose, the morning stayed cold but clear, with the rain staying away and the bright and dry conditions adding to the near-festive atmosphere.
Afterwards, Fr Byrne said the crowds and their devotion were a symbol of the faith still held by many people despite the church's problems.
"While the institutional church in many ways is dying, the essence of the Christian message still continues to be very relevant," he said.
"We had a huge variety of people for the Mass, so many young people as well as people of different cultures and local people."
Many people are looking for hope at the moment, according to Fr Byrne, and are looking within the community for that hope.
"The fact that people had to walk up here, they weren't just able to drive, and there were 3,500 -- there's something exciting about that," he said.
In Arklow, Co Wicklow, Reverend Nigel Sherwood and local parish priest Fr Martin Cosgrove held a ecumenical sunrise celebration on the town's south beach.
Large crowds also attended an ecumenical service at the summit of the Hill of Howth in Dublin at 6.45am, which was jointly organised by the Catholic, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist parishes of Howth, Bayside, Baldoyle and Sutton.