THE Catholic Church is pressing ahead with plans for a controversial new prayer book, parts of which will be introduced two months ahead of schedule.
Bishops will launch an information campaign within weeks to prepare Mass-goers for acceptance of the new prayer book.
On the weekend of May 7, leaflets entitled 'Introducing the New Missal' will be distributed in all parishes in Ireland's 26 dioceses. It will explain why the Roman Missal is replacing the current prayer book, which has been in use since 1975.
The resource materials aim to ease concerns among Catholics that they had been saying the wrong prayers up until now.
And from September 11, changes for the new missal will begin to be introduced at Masses in many dioceses -- some 10 weeks before the new edition is used in its entirety.
"The changes to the text that affect the congregation are relatively small in number -- but Mass will sound different," the bishops said in a statement.
The timetable was announced yesterday in spite of warnings from the recently formed Association of Catholic Priests that archaic and sexist language in the new Mass book will annoy lay people.
Currently, when the priest says "The Lord be with you", the congregation replies, "And also with you". But the revised translation will give a literal translation from Latin, which requires the people to say to the priest, "And with your spirit".
Other changes will relate to the Apostles' Creed; the longer Nicene Creed, and the acclamations of the Eucharistic Prayer.
The Association of Priests will hold a meeting in June to consider its response.
Leading cleric Fr Tony Flannery said: "While the bishops listened to our concerns, we regret to say that, judging by their response, they failed to take on board what we said and did not furnish any reasons for not accepting the concerns."
But a senior bishop insisted yesterday that there had been consultations during 10 years of preparing the new missal.
It was prepared for use in 11 English-speaking countries, in consultation with the Vatican.
Bishop of Dromore John McAreavey said he believed the new missal would provide a more accurate and nuanced translation from the original Latin.
"It is important that the people be given proper preparation for the new missal's introduction," he said.