Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Is Pope Francis factor boosting mass attendance in Mid Ulster?

Despite reports that Pope Francis is bringing Catholics back to Mass, he hasn’t had the same effect in Cookstown, according to the parish priest.

A recent survey carried out by The Irish Catholic across the Island of Ireland, found that 23 of the 26 diocese that responded said they had seen substantial increases in their congregations, compared to the same time last year.

But it appears, that even though New Year’s Day Mass — which isn’t a holy day — packed out Church of the Most Holy Trinity, Parish Priest Father Tremer said that in Cookstown, overall attendance has remained pretty steady.

He told the MAIL: “There is very good attendance here in Cookstown — for example on New Year’s Day we had Mass at 12 o’clock and we had a full church.

“You’re talking up on 500 people and it’s not a holy day of obligation. 

“We don’t oblige people to come to Mass on New Year’s Day, so it is very encouraging.”

But as to whether the ‘Pope Francis Effect’ had taken hold in the parish, bringing people back to Mass in their droves as has been reported in many other areas — he was not sure.

“Can I put that down to Pope Francis? I can’t honestly say,” Fr Tremer explained.

Though he did admit that he wasn’t sure about what was happening in neighbouring parishes, and whether the Pope had effected the numbers of those returning to Mass elsewhere.

“I can only speak for here now, and certainly our numbers are holding, it’s very good,” he said.

“We haven’t had a loss of congregation big enough to say it was attributed it to anything other than timing.

“I have to say it has been very encouraging here in Cookstown all along.”

Meanwhile in Belfast, Fr Hugh Kennedy from St Peter’s Cathedral, said the second Mass they put on Christmas Eve was packed out.

“The profile of Pope Francis has actively helped to create a spirit of optimism for people,” he said.

And priests from parishes as far flung as Kildare, Limerick and Killarney have reported “packed out masses” — all put down to the “Francis Effect”.

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