Northern Ireland news

Belfast Dean says Mervyn Gibson welcome despite opposition to Catholic canon

Belfast Dean John Mann (right) pictured with Fr Edward O'Donnell. Picture by Ann McManus
Gareth McKeown

THE Dean of St Anne's Cathedral has said Rev Mervyn Gibson remains "very welcome" to preach there despite the senior Orangeman's insistence that he will not attend any service involving its new Catholic canon.

Rev John Mann also welcomed public support from the Presbyterian minister for lifting an Orange Order ban on members entering Catholic churches.

The order's Assistant Grand Master said in a radio interview this week that he would not attend any service at St Anne's in Belfast involving its newly-appointed ecumenical canon Fr Edward O'Donnell.

He said he was opposed to the installation of Fr O'Donnell, who last month became the first Catholic priest to serve on the Church of Ireland cathedral's governing chapter.

Speaking yesterday, Dean Mann said Rev Gibson has preached twice at St Anne's in the past five years and was "very welcome to do so again".

“Everyone is welcome to attend services in St Anne’s Cathedral and indeed members of the Orange Order are regularly with us," he said.

"Inevitably we are going to disagree on a few things but I believe that our brotherhood in Christ is real."

The Dean also backed Rev Gibson's support for lifting the ban on Orangemen entering Catholic churches, which has seen senior unionists face disciplinary action in the past for attending funerals.

"I feel his public support for the lifting of a ban on members of the Orange Order attending Catholic Church services, including weddings and funerals, is extremely positive," Rev Mann said.

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