Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Support for priest set to defy Church

Silenced priest Fr Tony Flannery has told how he has been “overwhelmed” by messages of support from all over the world since announcing he will defy Church authorities to celebrate what will be his last-ever public Mass at the weekend.

The popular Redemptorist cleric, who turns 70 today, has confirmed next Sunday’s event, which is taking place at his local community centre to mark his milestone birthday, will be his final public Mass.

However, the outspoken founder of the Association of Catholic Priests can look forward to an emotional send-off as he bows out from public ministry in front of what is set to be one of his biggest ever congregations.

Demand is so high for seats at the Killimordaly Community Centre, near Athenry, Co Galway, that organisers are considering erecting a marquee next to the building to cater for the huge numbers anticipated from all over Ireland.

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“I’ve received incredible support since announcing the Mass from across Ireland and abroad and I’m truly overwhelmed by the positive reaction I’ve had,” said Fr Flannery.

“There’s been a couple of negative emails from traditionalists, telling me I’ll go to hell, but to be honest I always expect that. And it’s literally just a handful out of the enormous number of messages of support I’ve been sent.

“What’s pleased me the most is the reaction I’ve had here from the local community.

“I’ll be celebrating the Mass in the place where I was born and reared and people here have told me that this is their way of showing where they stand in regards to my treatment by the Vatican.

“They’ve never really had a chance of displaying their support for me, but I’ve been told they see this Mass as their way of standing by me,” he said.

“It looks like it’s going to be a well-attended event. The community hall holds about 250, but we’re estimating there’ll be at least 500 people attending — with people coming from all over Ireland.

“So we may have to erect an additional structure, like a marquee, to cater for all of them,” he added.

Fr Flannery was censured by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith nearly five years ago for his liberal views on issues such as women priests, homosexuality, and contraception.

However, the widely-respected Athenry native said he has come to terms with his ban from ministry after serving more than 40 years as a priest, and the fact that a resolution between himself and the Vatican is now highly unlikely.

“For the past few years I’ve been giving private Masses in people’s houses and in the backs of pubs, and I’ll continue to do those.

“But this will my last public event here in Ireland. It will be a happy event and there will be nothing negative about it. I’ve no intention of using it as a platform from which to attack the Vatican.”

Fr Flannery’s Mass is taking place in Killimordaly Community Centre, near Athenry, at 2.30pm on Sunday.

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