Thursday, July 19, 2007

Saint Patrick's Day is March What?

Church celebrations of St Patrick's Day next year are being transferred to March 15th as it falls in Holy Week.

The Vatican had intended transferring the celebrations to early April, after Easter week, but at the request of the Irish bishops it agreed to the March 15th date as this would be closer to the civic celebrations of St Patrick's Day.

These will go ahead as normal on March 17th, which will also be a bank holiday. The St Patrick's Festival and parade will take place as normal in Dublin, as will events elsewhere.

In Ireland the feast of St Joseph next year will be celebrated on March 14th as his feast day, March 18th, also falls in Holy Week 2008.

The reason for these liturgical changes is that Easter Sunday next year is on March 23rd, the second earliest date it could be.

The earliest date is March 22nd, as Easter Sunday - since the Council of Nicea in AD365 - always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring equinox.

It means that Holy Week 2008, as reported in the current edition of the Irish Catholic, begins on March 17th, the Monday after Palm Sunday. For the first time since 1913, and the last time until 2160, St Patrick's (and St Joseph's) Day will fall in Holy Week next year.

As Fr Paddy Jones, of the Catholic Church's National Centre for Liturgy at Maynooth, put it, "the days of Holy Week and Easter Week rank above all others" and so St Patrick (and St Joseph) must be transferred.

In such circumstances St Patrick's Day should be celebrated then after the Second Sunday of Easter. But "in order to keep a link with the civic celebrations, the feast of St Patrick will be Saturday, March 15th, next year," Fr Jones said.

As a transferred feast it will not be a holy day of obligation.

The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Most Rev John Neill said that where his church was concerned liturgical celebrations of St Patrick's Day 2008 would also be on March 15th, though there may be some local celebrations on the 17th.

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