Thousands embrace hope and faith at dawn Masses
GLORIOUS sunshine on Easter Sunday attracted thousands of worshippers to gather for religious ceremonies.
Mount Leinster in Co Carlow saw the largest attendance for Easter dawn Mass, with more than 4,000 people.
It is the third year the Easter Sunday ceremony has been held on Mount Leinster to represent the "huge mountains people have to climb with unemployment, sickness, debt and uncertainty".
Sacred fires were lit and music filled the air from midnight before Mass began at 6am yesterday.
People of all ages were there -- from babies to the elderly -- and the Bagenalstown scout group walked 17km to the mountain for an all-night vigil.
The youngest priest in the Kildare and Leighlin diocese, Fr Paddy Byrne (37) concelebrated Mass with Bagenalstown parish priest Fr Declan Foley.
"It was fantastic in terms of it having all the ingredients of our spiritual identity -- traditional Irish music, fun and prayer. There was splendid sunshine for the early dawn," said Fr Byrne.
"Even in difficult times, we can embrace our faith, whatever it is. People in Ireland remain very spiritual and they're looking for opportunities and occasions to facilitate that hunger," he added.
Fr Byrne told the congregation he wanted to belong to a "church in the womb" that embraces people -- instead of a "church in the tomb".
"There was a sense of community -- of people sharing their faith and sharing their hope and celebrating the possible. We can do extraordinarily good work through small things," he added.
Meanwhile, vigils were held throughout the country -- and a beautiful sunrise greeted the hundreds of people at the Obelisk on Killiney Hill in Co Dublin. Hymns and prayers were recited around an Easter bonfire. The Easter "Sonrise" began 20 years ago.
Up to 200 people attended the dawn Mass at Ballymoreigh outside Dingle, Co Kerry, at the site of the 9th Century Teampaill Geal oratory. The custom was revived about 15 years ago and has become a social gathering for locals and visitors to the Dingle Peninsula.
The 6am Mass was followed by refreshments in the home of Micheal Toose MacGearailt, on whose land the ruins of the old oratory are.
Dingle curate Fr Bernard Healy celebrated the Mass with Fr Seamus McKenna.
The site also hosts the annual St John's night bonfire on June 23.
Arklow's south beach was another spectacular location for another pre-dawn Mass, where parishioners of the three main religious denominations gathered.
The countryside and historic surroundings of Drumlane Abbey in Drumlane parish in Co Cavan also celebrated an Easter dawn Mass.