DUBLIN — Ireland’s government and several Catholic bishops have clashed over whether already-postponed first communion and confirmation ceremonies should be put off until later in the year. Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said plans by three of Ireland’s 26 dioceses to proceed with the ceremonies, which usually take place during the school year but have been postponed as part of pandemic curbs, amounted to “putting lives at risk.” Donnelly’s warning followed similar comments by Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Michéal Martin late last week. However the health minister acknowledged as correct an interpretation advanced last week by Kevin Doran, bishop of the western Elphin diocese, that the apparent bans are guidelines rather than laws. Alphonsus Cullinan, bishop in the southern town of Waterford, said on Saturday he could “see no valid reason for the further postponement of the sacraments,” after crowds returned to sports events.
VATICAN CITY — With a Colombian flag tied around her shoulders, Sister Laura Teresa took a last look back at the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square, where, moments before, Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio emerged to greet the world as Pope Francis. He is the 266th pope, but the first Latin American, the first Pope Francis, the first Jesuit Pope and the first non-European since 741. “Yes, there is history here tonight,” said the religious sister from Bogota. Speaking amid a din from the estimated 200,000 umbrella-wielding onlookers making their way out of the vast horseshoe-shaped piazza after the end of the conclave, Sister Laura said that “I am surprised and happy that there is a Holy Father from South America.”
KNOCK — 2009 saw the publication of two reports that have shocked Irish people, led to the resignation of four bishops, and prompted speculation that Pope Benedict XVI will instigate a reorganization of the Irish Church in a pastoral letter scheduled for early 2010. The 2,600-page “Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse” — the Ryan Report — was an investigation into the treatment of thousands of children, over many decades, in institutions and schools run by religious orders and congregations. It concluded that “physical and emotional abuse and neglect were features of the institutions. Sexual abuse occurred in many of them, particularly boys’ institutions.” The report is not for the squeamish. For example, one case study tells how an abuser blared out music on a stereo system loud enough to cover the victim’s cries.