FATHER IGGY O’Donovan has been “wholeheartedly welcomed” to Limerick following his high profile move from Drogheda nearly a month ago, the Augustinian Order in the city have said.
Fr O’Donovan, who has moved to Limerick on a four-year sabbatical after performing a controversial baptism which was reported to the Vatican, has now been presiding over mass and hearing confessions in Limerick for the past three weeks.
Fr Liam Ryan, 73, prior of the Augustinians in Limerick, said Fr O’Donovan has received full faculties from the Bishop of Limerick, Brendan Leahy, to say mass, hear confessions and to exercise public ministry in the diocese.
He said Fr O’Donovan is now on the “normal rota” in the church, but has also been taking some time out to relax due to the “strain” he was under as a result of the widespread exposure of his case.
Fr O’Donovan was the subject of a complaint that he allowed godparents to pour water on a baby’s head during a baptism, which was addressed to Cardinal Sean Brady and subsequently forwarded to Rome. It was claimed that the baptism was not carried out in accordance with church rites. The baby was baptised for a second time, after another priest in the diocese approached the parents and told them the baby would have to be baptised again - but not by Fr O’Donovan.
In the recent Augustinian newsletter, he also stressed that O’Donovan had not been “silenced” or “exiled” to Limerick, which he said were “emotive” phrases used in some media reports.
“We worked together, I taught him in school, and some would say that I sowed the seeds of revolution in him,” said Fr Ryan, with a laugh. “But Drogheda’s loss is our gain. We are so delighted to have him here. He has had nothing but a positive welcome here. We’re looking forward to him coming into full ministry when he recovers from all of this.”
Speaking to the Limerick Leader, Fr Ryan said that his colleague was targetted by people who were “ultra, ultra conservative” and “jealous” of his popularity in Drogheda, where he had served for more than eight years. He insisted that his time in Drogheda had come to a natural end, and that he was not moved to Limerick as a result of this case.
However, Fr Ryan accepted that it has not been a completely easy transition.
He said moving home is always regarded as one of the most stressful periods in a person’s life - but does not believe that this same recognition is afforded to priests.
“We’re expected to pick up the black sacks, move on and say nothing. We are emotional beings and we miss people, and the transition is painful for us. We’re not supposed to have human feelings at all - that’s the perception that’s there - but following blind obedience.”
Like Fr O’Donovan, Fr Ryan has also been known for his outspoken views, and says there was a time when “going to the media wasn’t encouraged”.
Referring to other priests who have been silenced, he said: “In the last regime, it seems that Rome listened too much. The present man [Pope Francis] has more of an open, visionary outlook on the church.
“It would be easy enough to be a heretic in the last regime, but it would be more difficult now under Pope Francis. He has a far broader and wider vision altogether. I don’t want to criticise Pope Benedict either - he had his own fine qualities, intellectual qualities and was an outstanding scholar.
“But his church might have been a little bit more enclosed, and that’s why we all felt a little bit threatened at times. I speak freely and spontaneously, but sometimes spontaneity gets you in trouble at times.”
“Pope Francis is coming out with a lot of things now that we have been talking about for years, and it’s truly liberating.”
Fr O’Donovan is to be awarded the Freedom of Drogheda this week, following in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II, Éamon de Valera and Charles Stewart Parnell.