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Aquatic mass with inflatable altar ‘perhaps imprudent’ admits priest

05 August 2022


Fr Mattia Bernasconi celebrates mass in the sea, using an inflatable mattress as an altar

Fr Mattia Bernasconi celebrates mass in the sea, using an inflatable mattress as an altar

A ROMAN CATHOLIC priest in Italy has been forced to apologise after celebrating mass at sea, using an inflatable mattress as an altar.

Fr Mattia Bernasconi took to the water with a party of high-school students at the end of their week’s camp in Crotone, southern Italy, to escape the searing heat. He donned swimming shorts, and beachgoers near by joined the students in the water for the service. Pictures of the service were shared on social media extensively.

Fr Bernasconi has since apologised, saying that his behaviour was “perhaps imprudent” and “naïve”.

“It was absolutely not my intention to trivialise the eucharist. . . It was simply the mass at the end of a week of work,” he said. “But the symbols are strong, it is true, and they speak, sometimes in a different way than we would like. It was naïve of me not to give them due weight.”

He is now being investigated by the Italian authorities, for “offence to a religious confession”, which carries a fine of up to €5000.

The RC diocese of Crotone-Santa Severina put out a statement after the incident, saying that a “minimum of decorum and attention to the symbolism” demanded by the liturgy should be maintained.

“It is necessary to remember that the Eucharistic celebration and, in general, the celebration of the sacraments has its own particular language, made up of gestures and symbols which, on the part of Christians and particularly of ordained ministers, it is right to respect and enhance, without giving it up too superficially.

“In some special cases, on the occasion of retreats, school camps, in holiday areas it is also possible to celebrate Mass outside the church. However, it is always necessary to contact the ecclesial leaders of the place where you are, to advise on the most appropriate way of carrying out a Eucharistic celebration of this kind. Above all it is necessary to maintain that minimum of decorum and attention to the symbols required by the very nature of liturgical celebrations.”

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