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Parishes vote on church-gate collection ban

PARISHES are voting on banning church-gate collections amid fears they are discouraging people from attending Mass.

Charities face a major income blow over concerns the proposed ban in one diocese could trigger a nationwide ban.

Parts of the Diocese of Cork and Ross will ballot this weekend on a voluntary church-gate collection ban which will apply to all charities, sports groups and political parties.

No Irish diocese has ever sought an outright ban on church-gate collections.

However, the Diocese of Meath did raise concerns in 2007 over political parties collecting outside churches and the distance maintained by collectors from church entrances.

Mass-goers in Douglas, Wilton, Togher, Ballphehane, Mahon and Rochestown will be handed ballot papers tonight and after Sunday Mass. Other parishes nationwide have similar concerns and will be closely monitoring the result.

If the ballot is ratified, parish priests will write to the specific charities involved and ask them to voluntarily abide by the ban and not to collect outside churches.

Such a ban must be voluntary and cannot be legally enforced once the collection is on public property. But charities and sports groups are unlikely to defy such a request.

One cleric told the Irish Independent that individual parishes will not be allowed to adopt an independent position on the issue -- if a ban is introduced, it will apply to all parishes and churches in the area.

Douglas priest Fr Teddy O'Sullivan said parishioners felt under financial pressure and, on occasions, even harassed by the number of collections they faced en route to Mass.

However, charities have warned that such a ban would have a potentially catastrophic impact on their finances. The Cork Deaf Association (CDA), said such collections were a matter of simple financial survival for support groups.

"Every single donation we receive helps to continue providing our services. Every single church-gate collection helps us to survive," a CDA official said.

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However, there has been increasing disquiet within the church about charities continually seeking donations from Mass-goers. Last year, one parish in the Diocese of Killaloe queried why collections -- all of which had garda permits -- were focused on churches rather than the main streets of towns and villages.

A cleric raised concerns that Mass-goers were increasingly seen as "an easy target" for collectors.

But the Archdiocese of Dublin last night pointed out that collections which are not on church property are a matter for the gardai and are fully lawful once they have the relevant permits.

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