Ireland cuts First Communion expense grants

First Communion group 1949 - Wiki image

First Communion group 1949 - Wiki image

The Irish government has decided to cut special grants to families on benefits to cover the cost of First Communion and Confirmation expenses. Until recently 14,000 families were paid 242 Euros (£200) each to cover the cost which could include a white dress, veil, shoes and bag.

On Thursday the Department of Social Protection said the payment would now be capped at 110 euros (about £91). “They are designed to meet essential, once-off, exceptional expenses,” a spokeswoman for the department said.

Irish First Communion and Confirmation celebrations have become very commercialised in recent years with some families spending large sums on clothes and parties.

In light of the public debate that has followed the government decision, the Church has issued the following statement:

'The primary focus of First Holy Communion is the reception of the Body of Christ by the child for the first time; and, on the continued growth of the spiritual life of the child.  

'The First Holy Communion and Confirmation ceremonies are important days - landmark days - and should be memorable, proud and happy occasions for the child, her/his parents, grandparents, sponsor, brothers, sisters, classmates and school.  However all the pressure of trying to make these sacramental days special for the child can cause parents a lot of stress.  

'Bishops, priests and schools are very concerned about the cost issue facing parents with children for First Holy Communion and/or Confirmation and have discussed this matter in parishes.  If the emphasis for sacramental preparation is placed on commercially related concerns, rather than on the spiritual significance of the sacrament, then it is not a good preparation for Catholic children.  

'The Church's role is limited to sacramental preparation - in cooperation with parents, schools and parishes - and responsibility relating to social celebrations rests with parents.  To experience that authentic celebration of a sacrament, those celebratory aspects which take place outside of the sacramental ceremonies ought to be balanced and appropriate for the occasion.  

'In this regard the Church continues our long tradition of encouraging parishes to provide, for example after the First Holy Communion Mass, a locally organised and modest gathering so that the faith community can together celebrate this special day in the lives of children and of their families.  Such modest parish-based initiatives also help to move the emphasis away from the commercial focus.  Simplicity ought to characterise the social celebration of these sacramental occasions so that their faith significance is not lost.'

Source: Irish Catholic Communications Office

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