Prayer centre 'has no status in eyes of Church'
The controversial House of Prayer has been disowned by the Catholic hierarchy and has no standing in the eyes of the Church.
In a hard-hitting statement, the Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary said the House of Prayer "has no Church approval and their work does not enjoy the confidence of the diocesan authorities".
He said that celebration of the sacraments at the House of Prayer was not permitted.
The House of Prayer was founded on Achill Island by Mayo woman Christina Gallagher after she claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary in 1988.
Mrs Gallagher claims to receive regular messages from the Virgin Mary and to suffer from unexplained stigmata.
However, Mrs Gallagher has become the focus of a number of reports in the Sunday World newspaper, which published details of her considerable wealth, her multi-million euro property portfolio, and use of luxury cars. The claims have been disputed by her supporters.
In his message, Dr Neary gave some background to the Church's decision.
He said that in 1996, he established a diocesan commission of enquiry to investigate certain claims of supernatural phenomenon. Following the report, a statement was issued which concluded that no evidence of supernatural phenomena had been observed but that the persons involved gave every evidence of good faith.
"Arising from that, I proposed a basic canonical structure that would gradually integrate the work of the House into the life of Achill Parish and the Archdiocese.
"While this was then attempted by the Archdiocese, I became increasingly perturbed by an apparent absence of enthusiasm on the parts of Mrs Gallagher and her associates.
"The relationship deteriorated to the extent that Mrs Gallagher closed the House of Prayer at Achill in July 1998, expressing to the media at the time a sense of having been harshly treated by the Archdiocese.
"In order to clarify the issue for the faithful, I issued another statement, regretting the development and expressing grave misgivings as to the wisdom with which Mrs Gallagher had been advised and had acted in the matter.
"Diocesan efforts to integrate this work ended in July 1998 when it was closed by Mrs Gallagher. Celebration of the sacraments and reservation of the Blessed Sacrament at the House of Prayer are not permitted," the archbishop said.
Dr Neary added that any work carried on since then has been entirely of a private nature and has no Church approval.
"Neither, for reasons given above, does such work enjoy the confidence of the diocesan authorities."
Dr Neary added that he respected the faith and devotion of many people who have been impressed by this (House of Prayer) work in the past.