Sunday, January 22, 2017

Hundreds attend mass held by priest banned from public ministry

Hundreds of people have attended the first mass in five years to be celebrated by a priest banned from public ministry.

Fr Tony Flannery, a Redemptorist priest, was banned from public ministry by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in 2012.

This afternoon, he said mass at a community centre in Co Galway. 

The event was described as a celebration to mark the priest's recent 70th birthday.

Fr Flannery was suspended from public ministry after he refused to row back on a number of public statements he had made about the priesthood, the role of women in the church, contraception and sexuality. 

He has taken issue with the manner in which the decision was communicated to him and with the lack of direct contact he had with the CDF. 

In his homily, Fr Flannery said he believed the mass was not just the work of a priest but instead a celebration of the entire community.

Referring to the breakdown of, what he called the "centralised power" of the Catholic Church, he urged those present to take ownership of their faith.

He said he had been overwhelmed at the level of support he had received since he announced he would celebrate a public mass and he expressed his thanks to the local community. 

Signs were erected on approach roads to the centre before today's service. 

In addition, a marquee was erected beside the building to cater for the hundreds of people who turned up.

The proceedings were relayed on a big screen to the congregation outside the community centre.

Fr Flannery's homily met with a standing ovation and many of those in attendance expressed hope that the Vatican would engage in a more meaningful manner with the faithful. 

Fr Flannery said he was not concerned at the prospect of further censure from the church authorities. He said he felt it was extremely unlikely that the ban on him ministering publicly would be lifted.

Fr Flannery described the threat of excommunication as a medieval construct and not something that perturbed him.

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