Holy row erupts as rector attacks Rose of Tralee chiefs over open-air Mass
A HOLY row has broken out between a rector and the organisers of the Rose of Tralee, over a perceived slight against the Church of Ireland.
In a parish newsletter, the Venerable Robert Warren lashes out at organisers of the Rose of Tralee International Festival, accusing them of excluding non-Catholics from a religious service for contestants.
Rev Warren told the congregation of the Dingle and Tralee Union of Parishes that an agreement that St John's Church in Ashe Street, Tralee, would host the service this year had been abandoned in favour of an open-air Mass in Pearse Park, arranged by St John's Church on Castle Street, which is Catholic.
"This change from the previously agreed arrangement was made, as far as I am aware, without consultation with the clergy of the various parishes. Certainly the decision was made without consultation with me," the clergyman wrote.
The Roses are not asked to declare their religious beliefs, but Rev Warren told the Irish Independent that in his time as Rector of Tralee, there have been three winners and numerous contestants who were members of the Church of Ireland.
He also pointed out that several Church of Ireland members have been involved in the organising of the festival over the years.
The matter has caused considerable embarrassment to festival organisers.
A statement issued on behalf of chief executive of the Rose of Tralee International Festival, Anthony O'Gara, said he was "saddened" by the manner in which the communication had evolved.
Rev Warren stressed that his gripe was not with his friends in sister churches in the town.
"My displeasure is based on, firstly, that the agreed arrangements were changed unilaterally by the festival organisers without consultation with the churches of the town and, secondly, that by persisting with having a Roman Catholic Mass as the main expression during the festival, it excludes all those of us who are not Roman Catholic from full participation in that expression of faith," he said.
Rev Warren said previous festival services hosted by St John's in Ashe Street were always "fully ecumenical".
Organisers of the festival, which takes place at the end of August, insist they have always been proud of its status as non-political and non-sectarian.
They said they had tried to contact Rev Warren a month ago to discuss the religious aspect of the Roses' schedule but got no reply.
"When we succeeded in establishing contact with Rev Warren some weeks later, he was dissatisfied with not being involved in finalising the Roses' schedule," the statement said.
It added that organisers looked forward to resolving the matter in a "calm and amiable fashion" and would be happy to bring the Roses to St John's Church of Ireland on Sunday, August 19.
However, Rev Warren said this did not give him the time he would have wanted to organise the service.