Two of Northern Ireland’s most prominent places of worship have agreed to change their Sunday services to take account of the Giro d’Italia cycle race.
Armagh’s Anglican and Catholic cathedrals – both called St Patrick’s – have opted to re-write their scheduled worship for Sunday, May 11 because of the disruption caused by the sports extravaganza.
The huge international contest is holding its initial three-day stage in Northern Ireland on May 9, 10 and 11, and on its final day in the Province the riders will set off from Armagh and head south to Dublin.
This May 11 event is set to start at 11.20am.
As a result, both the 10am and 11am services at the Anglican cathedral are cancelled for that morning, with the agreement of the congregation.
The cathedral’s dean Gregory Dunstan said: “We could not have held services with preparations for the Giro d’Italia all around, and the Giro being run towards the end of the second service.
“It certainly wouldn’t have been anything like a normal atmosphere for worship.
“To have dug one’s heels in and said ‘no – we’re going to do it’ would have meant extra work for a lot of people, including the PSNI and they have enough work for the day.”
Instead, they will hold one traditional-style service at 7am that Sunday, and a modern-style service at 9pm the night before.
In the latter case, the dean said old Jewish tradition dictates that a new day begins at sunset – so, according to that interpretation, it would still be a Sunday service.
He said he could not remember having to make such changes before.
Travel disruption is expected during the three days the Giro is in the Province.
In addition, political posters, reminding residents who their candidates are ahead of the upcoming council elections, have also been banned from the race route.
Asked if some may see changing worship times as a concession too far, the dean said: “For me the priority is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. It’s been necessary to make some adjustments in order to enable it to happen. But that is our priority for Sunday.”
At the Catholic cathedral, 11am mass is also cancelled.
To make up for it, an extra mass will be held the evening before in St Malachy’s Church at 6.30pm.
Father Peter McAnenly, administrator of St Patrick’s cathedral parish, said: “Certainly not in my time have we had to reschedule a service, as such. But we’re doing this really for practical reasons.”
Giro’s three days in the Province
An estimated 100,000 Northern Irish spectators will watch the Giro d’Italia, plus 40,000 more from outside the Province.
On May 8, an opening ceremony will be held at Belfast’s City Hall from 5.30pm and to decorate the route, a number of landmarks will be bathed in pink light (pink being the colour of the Giro).
May 9 will be a time-trial, held along a 13-mile route in Belfast.
May 10 will see cyclists set off from the city and ride to the north coast and back – a roughly 135-mile course.
May 11 will see them travel more than 110 miles from Armagh to Dublin.