Rector defends 'octogenarian priest' in tweet row
A priest has defended an elderly member of the clergy after Senator Catherine Noone described him as an "octogenarian" on Twitter.
Ms Noone, who is pro-repeal, was unhappy that abortion was brought up during Easter Mass.
Her tweet, since deleted, said: "Easter Mass in Knock Basilica this afternoon with my parents - an octogenarian priest took at least three opportunities to preach to us about abortion. It's no wonder people feel disillusioned with the Catholic Church."
But Fr Richard Gibbons, rector at Knock Shrine, told the Irish Independent that his colleagues were "inoffensive people". "We have a lot of chaplains working at the shrine, and quite a number of them are retired, but still say Mass at times.
"I haven't been talking to the priest, and I doubt he knows anything about this Twitter storm. The men here are inoffensive people. They don't go out to give offence to anybody.
"They would just state the Catholic position on life, which is important to all of us."
Fr Gibbons added that it would not be unusual for the right to life to be brought up in a Catholic church. "[The clerics] here are very measured, intelligent men. They're guys who have a lot of experience under their belt," he said.
Another source added: "There was no need for it because, unfortunately, all of our priests are ageing - that's just the way it is."
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Ms Noone said she had been attempting to "paint a picture" by using the term "octogenarian" in her tweet.
"I'm not ageist. Anyone who knows me knows I'm not ageist," she said.
She added that the tweet was deleted because she did not need the negativity it sparked.