An Irish priest based in England has criticised as “an affront of the highest order” the lack of a Catholic Church representative during the state visit of President Michael D. Higgins to Britain last week.
Fr Tom Grufferty, Parish Priest of the parish of Havant and Emsworth in Portsmouth, told The Irish Catholic that he was “disappointed and astonished” at the lack of a Catholic presence during the historic four-day visit of the Irish president to Britain.
Specifically citing the State Banquet and subsequent reception at Windsor Castle, Fr Grufferty said: “There may well have been a Catholic presence but the name was not officially acknowledged. To ignore the Irish Catholics is an affront of the highest order.”
The Co. Mayo-born cleric also claimed a visit to Westminster Cathedral “would have been a great tribute and fitting gesture to Irish Catholics who have built and sustained the Church in England and Wales since the Irish Famine”.
“I have the greatest admiration that the State visit should include Westminster Abbey and Coventry Cathedral but surely an engagement to Westminster Cathedral could have been included.
“Many of our finest Catholic Churches were built by Irish navvies and by the pennies of the poor,” he said. “Not only that but the Irish are probably the largest number of Church-going Catholics in the UK,” he added.
A spokesman for Buckingham Palace told The Irish Catholic this week that an invitation to the Thursday night reception at Windsor Castle was extended to the Archbishop of Armagh, Cardinal Seán Brady. However, the spokesman said the invitation had been declined.