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Ex-Man United star takes part in first mass since becoming priest

Father Mulryne at St Oliver Plunkett Church in Belfast last night
Father Mulryne at St Oliver Plunkett Church in Belfast last night

A former Manchester United and Northern Ireland footballer ordained to the priesthood has taken part in his first Mass.

Philip Mulryne, 39, returned to his native Belfast for a special Catholic religious service at St Oliver Plunkett Church.

The new priest was joined by friends and well-wishers at Monday night's Mass - just a few miles from Windsor Park Stadium, where he once donned the green jersey of his home country - flanked by white-robed members of his order.

The product of the youth system at Old Trafford made his debut for the first team in 1997.

He was unable to secure a regular place in Alex Ferguson's side and left Manchester to continue his playing career at clubs including Norwich City, Cardiff City and Leyton Orient.

The clergyman said his vocation was a calling.

"This is a new chapter now in my life."

He undertook the rites associated with Catholicism, assisted by a more senior cleric, involving the blessing of sacraments, according to Catholic doctrine transforming bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.

Mass-goers heard how his vocation as a friar preacher should be to "set hearts on fire" with the love of Jesus.

He was made a member of the Dominican Order at an ordination at St Saviour's church in north Dublin at the weekend.

Fr John Walsh alluded to the bonfires which are traditionally lit in loyalist areas in Northern Ireland marking Twelfth of July festivities.

He said: "Be an arsonist for Christ, to set the hearts as a friar preacher on fire with the love of Jesus.

"May your years of priesthood be as happy as mine.

"May your Dominican years be long and fruitful.

"May you never forget the seed that was sown in this place... who have come out in huge numbers to support you and your brothers."