Sunday 17 December 2017

Catholics unite with Protestants for historic celebration

Edel O'Connell

THE relationship between Irish Catholics and Protestants took a historic step forward yesterday as ministers from both churches jointly celebrated a service at a major Catholic event.

The Church of Ireland's Archbishop Michael Jackson delivered an 'ecumenical service' to thousands of Catholic pilgrims at the International Eucharistic Congress. It is only the second time ever, and the first in a generation, that an ecumenical service was celebrated at such a congress. Unlike a Mass, an ecumenical service is celebrated by multiple denominations to promote Christian unity.

Dr Jackson was joined on the altar by the president of the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Reverend Kenneth Lindsay, and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Dallas, Dr Brian Farrell.

The Church of Ireland cleric said relations between the Anglican and Irish Catholic churches were now "quite organic" and no longer staged.

"It is no longer a case of leaders meeting and being photographed together," he said, adding that things were "quite fluid and open".

Earlier, it was standing room only at an address Dr Martin gave to a packed concert hall on the second day of the congress at the RDS, where he spoke of the role of the church in the modern era. Watching from the sidelines was the embattled All-Ireland primate Cardinal Sean Brady, who heard Dr Martin speak of how a "divided and squabbling church" would not attract younger people but "alienate them further".

Cardinal Brady, who has faced increased pressure to stand down following revelations about his handling of information relating to the victims of notorious paedophile cleric Fr Brendan Smyth, stood among the latecomers at the side of the packed hall for the duration of the speech.

Dr Martin said a resignation to "keeping things ticking over" had to be resisted in the church and that there had to be "real change" through a "new evangelisation".

Organisers say numbers were up yesterday on the 12,500 pilgrims who attended the opening ceremony on Sunday -- over a quarter of them from overseas.

The papal legate, Cardinal Ouellett, will today visit President Michael D Higgins at Aras an Uachtarain before embarking on a pilgrimage to Lough Derg, where he will spend the night.

Billy Keane

Irish Independent

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