Irish Church leaders investigate after Protestant minister "concelebrates"

A senior Catholic official in Ireland are questioning Augustinian priests in Drogheda over an Easter Sunday service in which a Protestant minister appeared to "concelebrate" mass with Catholic priests.

Catholic World News reports that Archbishop Sean Brady, the Catholic Primate and Archbishop of Armagh, promised to "seek further details about the exact circumstances," noting in a public statement that the participation of a Protestant clergyman appeared to be "contrary to Catholic Church rules."

Rev Michael Graham, a minister of the Church of Ireland, was invited to participate in the Eucharistic ceremony by Fr Iggy O'Donovan, who told the Irish Times newspaper that he had deliberately organised an ecumenical service to commemorate the anniversary of the Easter Uprising in 1916.

He said that Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, who had recommended an "inclusive" approach to the anniversary celebrations, inspired his plan.

During the service Rev Graham joined the Catholic priests at the altar, and about 20 members of his congregation received Communion along with the Catholic parishioners.

Archbishop Brady said that the ecumenical gesture was misguided. "True ecumenism is best served by initiatives that are respectful of, and sensitive to, the traditions, ethos, and discipline of all those involved," he said.

The Church of Ireland primate, Archbishop Robin Eames, agreed, saying that unauthorised ecumenical activities, "however well intentioned, can lead to misunderstandings."

Meanwhile, The Irish Times reports that Fr O'Donovan said on Tuesday that it was "the most meaningful Eucharist I ever celebrated".

As for the theology involved, he said he shared "the Eucharist every day with Roman Catholics whose theology I do not share". Besides, Rev Graham "has a very profound understanding of the Eucharist", he said.

The Mass was not publicised to avoid it appearing as a gimmick, he said, while the reaction of the congregation on the day was "palpably beautiful". The response of those who spoke to him since had been "overwhelmingly positive".

Irish Church leaders investigate after Protestant minister "concelebrates" (Catholic World News 19/4/06)
Primates Brady and Eames express concern at joint Mass (The Irish Times 19/4/06)

Investigation underway into concelebrated Easter mass (Irish Times 19/4/06)
Comiskey confesses: I have now found peace (Irish Independent 18/4/06)
Irish bishops express concern with proposal to centralize education (Catholic News Service 28/3/06)
Irish commission to probe Dublin sex-abuse complaints (Catholic World News 22/3/06)

20 Apr 2006