CHURCHGOING RESIDENTS of Howth, Co Dublin, were bewildered to see Osama bin Laden listed for two memorial services in their parish newsletter yesterday morning.
The Catholic Church in the seaside town had named the terrorist – shot dead by US navy seals in a heavily-fortified compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, last Sunday – among those to whom it planned to devote a Mass.
In addition to carrying information about upcoming communions and confirmations, the Church of the Assumption newsletter also contained a brief announcement which read: “Osama Bin Laden (recently deceased)”, adding that the man who had topped America’s most wanted list for more than a decade was scheduled to have two Masses said in his honour next Thursday at 8am and 10am.
The information was also carried, without any further explanation or clarification, on the church’s website.
A number of parishioners were shocked at the appearance of the late al-Qaeda leader on the shortlist of people who were due to be remembered by the parish this week, but assumed the information was correct.
One said he did not really know what to make of the scheduled Masses and added that he would need to reflect on it for some time before deciding if it was an appropriate step for the church to take.
In a reflection of the growing influence of social media in Ireland, news of the proposed bin Laden service spread quickly via Twitter, with some users speculating that the decision was a genuinely Christian act of forgiveness and others marvelling at the insensitivity of the move.
However, a spokeswoman for the Dublin archdiocese expressed surprise that such a Mass would be scheduled. She subsequently confirmed that it was a hoax.
She said someone had telephoned the church last week asking that two services to be dedicated to the infamous al-Qaeda leader’s memory.
His name had been taken without question by a church official and included on the list for upcoming prayers without the sanction of parish priest Msgr Brendan Houlihan.
Msgr Houlihan was said to be very upset at bin Laden’s inclusion on the Mass list and insisted that under no circumstances would a memorial service be held in the church for the deceased terrorist.
“A lot of hurt has been caused by this hoax,” the archdiocese spokeswoman said, shortly before this week’s newsletter was taken down from the church’s website.