Parishioners ‘dismayed’ at ticket allocation as 40 are invited to reopening of St Peter’s

Parishioners of St Peter’s have spoken of their dismay this week after an announcement that only 40 tickets have been allocated to the lower Falls parish for the Solemn Re-Opening of St Peter’s Cathedral and Dedication of the New Altar.
Closed to the public since July 2003 for refurbishments, St Peter’s Cathedral is set to open its doors again on Sunday, February, 6 with a Mass at 3pm for 750 invited guests who will include religious representatives and parishioners from the other 83 parishes which make up the Diocese of Down and Connor.
An evening Mass will also be held on Sunday, February 6 at 8pm and, says Monsignor Toner of St Peter’s Cathedral, all are welcome to attend the service.
But speaking to the Andersonstown News, a resident of the parish, who did not wish to be named, claimed that he and many others felt that this exclusion from the special dedication Mass was unfair, and added that the church’s failure to invite those who have provided on-going support to the Cathedral, not least in its recent refurbishment, is an insult to all who have spent their lives in service of the church.
“This is reminiscent of a similar situation 40 years ago. The altar was replaced and the parishioners weren’t invited to the re-opening and as a result the church lost half of its congregation,” said the parishioner.
“It should be the young people from schools and youth clubs who fill out the seats for the opening Mass, because they are the future of the church.
“Many of the people who will attend the dedication will never be back to St Peter’s and it is ridiculous that the people who are part of the parish are to be excluded in favour of them,” added the angry parishioner.
Monsignor Tom Toner confirmed that only 40 tickets would be allocated to St Peter’s parishioners, something he described as “regrettable”. He added that the church now faces the unenviable task of trying to distribute these in a fair and even-handed way.
“We’ve had many queries on the matter in the past two or three weeks and parishioners need to be sympathetic and understand that St Peter’s isn’t just a parish church, it is the Cathedral Church of the Down and Connor Diocese.
“There are 84 parishes in the Down and Connor Diocese,” added Monsignor Toner, “and every parish contributed, some handsomely, and yet we have been allocated far more tickets than anyone else. I can very much understand the disappointment of parishioners,” said Monsignor Toner, “but there will be an evening Mass at 8pm so that all who want to join in the celebrations can do so.
“We are now faced with the task of distributing the tickets and are unsure of the best way to do this. We don’t want to choose, because in choosing we are rejecting those not chosen. We want to do this as equitably as we can,” concluded Monsignor Toner.

Journalist:: Ciara McGuigan

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