Sunday 22 April 2018

Drogheda priest takes sabbatical over 'ecclesiastical politics'

Elaine Keogh

A PRIEST has hit out at what he called, “the murkiness of the devious world of ecclesiastical politics,” at his final mass before he begins a ‘sabbatical.’

Close to 1,500 people, including members of the Muslim and Bahai faiths, attended Fr Iggy O’Donovan’s final mass at the Augustinian Church in Drogheda today, and heard the Mayor claim that “ultra conservative” elements have forced the Augustinian’s to “push” Fr Iggy out of Drogheda.

While Fr Iggy has denied reports he has been silenced by the Church hierarchy in Rome, many see the decision to move him from Drogheda to Limerick, where he will be on sabbatical, as a move taken in response to complaints about his liturgy.

Fr Iggy, who is known for encouraging young people and other members of the community to take part in the mass, made international headlines in 2006 when he concelebrated Easter Sunday mass with the Church of Ireland clergyman the Reverend Michael Graham.

Yesterday Fr Iggy said he could not leave the town without making reference to Fr Tony Flannery who he described as, “a distinguished colleague of mine in the priesthood.”

“If I had not been made aware first hand of the details of his case I could not have given it credence,” he said.

“Even hardened veterans are shaken by the murkiness of the devious world of ecclesiastical politics.”

Fr Iggy asked: “How has it come to this, that a great and good priest like Tony, who has dedicated his life to the preaching of the Gospel is persecuted with a zeal that is as pathological as the paranoia that feeds it?

“How has it come to this, that intolerant and extreme right-wingers – encouraged apparently by certain authorities, and career-oriented priests, can meet in solemn conclave to determine who is guilty of what these people label heresy?

“How has it come to this that sincere thinking Catholics are walking away from our Church believing that the battle for sane Catholicism is lost?

“I still believe and am strongly of the conviction that Catholicism is compatible with modern culture,” he added, saying he deeply welcomes the arrival of Pope Francis.

At the conclusion of the mass the Mayor of Drogheda, Richie Culhane, addressed the congregation and said he believed Fr Iggy was leaving because, “ultra-conservative elements within the Church have forced the hierarchy to push Iggy further afield and out of Drogheda here.”

Cllr Culhane said: “I hope and pray to God that you are never silenced.”

He received a standing ovation when concluded: “I will call on the hierarchy ‘Give him back to us.”

In another sign of support for Fr Flannery, Fr Iggy presented the Mayor with a copy of Fr Flannery’s book at what may have been his final mass at a Church for some time.

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