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St. Patrick’s Day Festival “secular”, Christian group told

Organisers of the National St. Patrick’s Day Parade have told a Christian group that they are “committed to a secular, inclusive, non-political approach” to this year’s Festival and Parade, set to take place in Dublin tomorrow. The comment was made in communication between event organisers and the Evangelical Catholic Initiative (ECI) who requested to take part in this year’s National Parade. 

The Evangelical Catholic Initiative (ECI) is an initiative for the New Evangelisation, led by Catholic Christians who are “evangelical by conviction and committed to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”

The ECI sought to include an inter-church float at the Parade with the theme ‘the authentic Patrick – hope after Covid’, and claim they were refused on the grounds that the parade is a ‘secular’ celebration.

This is disputed by the parade organisers themselves, who told Gript that the ECI could not take part because the event is a “uniquely commissioned artistic Parade made up of marching bands and productions by professional pageant companies”. They said that “unfortunately, the Parade is not able to accommodate individual groups and does not accept applications for participation.”

In its email to the ECI, the St. Patrick’s Festival team added: “This year we chose Connections as we have spent so long apart, and we are all so delighted to be coming back together. We celebrate community, inclusion, diversity, and we bring the nation together in a global celebration of Irish arts, culture, and heritage.”

They also affirmed their commitment to a secular celebration, stating: “We are committed to a secular, inclusive, non-political approach to the Parade and St. Patrick’s Festival. I hope this clears things up for you”.

In communication with its supporters, the Evangelical Catholic Initiative said it had produced and recently launched a new pamphlet explaining the life of St Patrick which it wanted to promote at the annual festival. It said: “ECI have launched a new Pamphlet of St. Patrick’s Testimony as a tool of evangelism. Sadly, so many people in Ireland have never actually read Patrick’s own Testimony. 

“We applied to have an inter-church float in St. Patrick’s Parade in Dublin on the 17th March with the theme, ‘the authentic Patrick – hope after Covid’, but were turned down by the Festival committee who said it is a “secular parade,” they said.

“We felt like telling them to drop the name St. Patrick! This really demonstrates how far our nation has departed from her Judeo-Christian ethos. We believe that these Pamphlets are a great opportunity to correct this whilst also furthering the process of evangelism,” the group said.

Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin is among the Church leaders who backed the ECI’s project promoting the Saint. Archbishop John McDowell and Presbyterian and Methodist leaders in Ireland have individually endorsed this Pamphlet, according to the ECI. On inter-church support for the St. Patrick’s testimony project, the ECI states: “St. Patrick, being pre-Reformation, is a potentially wonderful uniting figure for all Christians.” 

Last year, Archbishop Martin said that lockdown restrictions could provide Ireland the opportunity “to focus a little more on Saint Patrick himself, and even rescue the real Saint Patrick from the legends and distractions surrounding him” as he acknowledged the secularisation of the feast day.

“If you want to find the true story of Patrick, and get an authentic understanding of who he was, the best place to look is in his own words which are preserved for us in two ancient writings – Saint Patrick’s Confession, and Saint Patrick’s Letter to Coroticus.

“You won’t find any mention there of green beer, snakes or even shamrock – but you will discover the testimony of a real person who dedicated his life and energies to spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Martin wrote.

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