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'has to change' Priests want preparation for communions and confirmations done outside of school

A group representing priests has said the current model 'is no longer fit for purpose'


Stock photo. Photo: Pawel Horosiewicz.

Stock photo. Photo: Pawel Horosiewicz.

Stock photo. Photo: Pawel Horosiewicz.

A group representing priests has said the current model of preparing children for communions and confirmations, where the bulk of preparation takes place in school, "is no longer fit for purpose" and "has to change".

In a statement yesterday, the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), which represents more than 1,000 Irish priests, criticised the recent interventions by a number of bishops indicating their willingness to defy current health guidelines and allow confirmations and communions to recommence in their dioceses.

Noting that some bishops had expressed disappointment they were not consulted by the Government over the current suspension of the sacraments, the ACP said the experience could be useful in providing the bishops with a better understanding of what it is like for certain groups within the church.

"Women, gay people and those in second relationships could tell bishops a lot about being powerless when it comes to church teaching and practice," the ACP said.

They told the bishops the Catholic church has no greater access to special privilege in today's Ireland than any other group and this might result in a "humbler, poorer, simpler church, a church that dialogues with its people".

Elsewhere in its statement, the ACP said the celebration of both first communions and confirmations has been "troubling for many priests and people" in recent years.

"Children are presented for both sacraments even though many of them rarely, if ever, attend any celebrations of the eucharist, either before or after the big day," they said.

Instead of the current model involving a partnership of school, parents and parish, the ACP would like to see the family and the parish nurturing faith and introducing children to the sacraments.

The group also noted that in those dioceses where bishops have announced they plan to go ahead with communions and confirmations, the ACP is unaware of any discussion taking place between the bishops and priests or pastoral councils about the recommencement of the sacraments.

"Such lack of consultation is a far cry from the approach to decision making envisioned in the Synodal church promoted by Pope Francis, and being launched here in Ireland this year," the ACP said.

On Saturday, Archbishop Dermot Farrell of Dublin, who last week wrote to priests in his diocese indicating they could proceed with the sacraments, said the church has fully supported measures to protect health and welfare.

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Dr Farrell said it had been "a source of deep frustration" to many families and parish communities that for so many months they have been unable to celebrate the sacraments of first holy communion and confirmation.

"They have been perplexed, as am I, that of all of the types of events which might give rise to mingling between households, it is uniquely these sacraments which are prohibited under public guidelines," he said.

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