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Irish chaplain in presidential row

17 January 2014

PA

"One another's keepers": President Michael D. Higgins 

"One another's keepers": President Michael D. Higgins 

AN IRISH army chaplain who in a sermon referred to the absence of any mention of Christ or Christianity in the President's Christmas message has apologised for any embarrassment his remarks may have caused the head of state.

The Head Chaplain to the Defence Forces, Mgr Eoin Thynne, made the reference during a sermon in Dublin on Christmas Eve, and sparked a debate on a radio show in which people called in to say that the President, Michael D. Higgins, should have included Christianity in his message, which had gone out on 22 December.

After the airing of the programme, the Defence Forces Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Conor O'Boyle, phoned the President's residence to "convey the regret of the head chaplain for any embarrassment that may have been caused to the President", while a press officer for the Defence Forces issued a statement saying that no criticism of the President was intended, and that anyone who thought otherwise was putting a "particularly unfair interpretation" on the sermon.

Mgr Thynne was referring to the general change in Irish society on the meaning of Christmas, it said.

A presidential spokesman said that President Higgins did refer to a spiritual dimension in his message by acknowledging that "the message of Christmas, shared by many faiths, invites us to care for one another and to be, in an ethical sense, one another's keepers."

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