Northern Ireland news

Josepha Madigan: Republic's culture minister calls on Catholic Church to ordain women

Ms Madigan asked: "What happens if the person receiving the calling to the priesthood is a woman?"

AN Irish government minister who led prayers at a Mass in Dublin last year has called on the Catholic Church to ordain women as priests.

Culture minister Josepha Madigan said the church should be more open about issues including homosexuality, single parents and the ordination of women.

"What is the church afraid of?" she asked the We Are Church forum in Dublin on Monday night.

Ms Madigan said it should not be a surprise to see a woman on the altar.

"But what happens if the person receiving the calling to the priesthood is a woman?" she said.

"Do we really believe that God would discriminate against her as the Catholic Church does purely based on her gender?"

The Fine Gael minister had been due to deliver the same speech at the Mercy International Centre last month but the event was cancelled amid fears of protests.

The Mercy Sisters, who own the venue, warned that Ms Madigan would face "busloads of protesters" if her speech were to go ahead.

In June, Ms Madigan, a leading campaigner for the liberalisation of the Republic's abortion laws, led prayers along with two other women at the Church of St Therese in Mount Merrion, Dublin, after a priest did not show up for the 6pm Saturday Mass.

Her actions and support for the ordination of women later sparked a row after Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said she had caused distress to parishioners.

The archbishop later apologised for the “unfortunate mistake”.

Ms Madigan told the We Are Church forum that she was surprised that her decision to lead prayers was seen as controversial.

"I felt it was important that those who had chosen to attend the church for Mass that evening could partake in prayers as a faith community, even if it was not in the way that they had expected," she said.

She added: "It was claimed that I had crossed a line. It was joked, or erroneously noted, that I had 'said Mass'."

"This is of course not the case at all."

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