An invitation from the Orange Order to the Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor in September 2012 to meet in their headquarters “still hasn’t been taken up”.
Orange Order chaplain the Rev Mervyn Gibson said the invitation was sent to try to resolve tensions over parades past St Patrick’s Church in Donegall Street in Belfast.
It came after a band played a controverial song in the area.
The invitation for Bishop Noel Treanor to visit Schomberg House and see the Covenant exhibition – ahead of the Covenant parade – was made in a bid to develop “mutual understanding”.
He said a letter was later sent to “defer” the meeting.
Mr Gibson told the News Letter: “The facts are on September 17 following quiet conversations we invited the parish priest of St Patrick’s and parishioners to come and see the Covenant exhibition.
“We issued a second statement saying the offer was still there.
“The Bishop then turned it down in October saying he was deferring it.”
And he added: “That invitation still stands and is open. Whether it was declined, deferred or whatever it hasn’t taken place but the invitation is still there.”
However a spokesman for Roman Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor, Noel Treanor, yesterday told BBC’s Sunday Sequence programme that in recent weeks “the portrayal and presentation of this invitation to a Covenant exhibition has morphed or changed into what some people believe is that Bishop Treanor has refused or rebuffed or even deferred face-to-face talks with the Orange Order”.
Father Eddie McGee added that this was “entirely inaccurate” as he said Bishop Treanor “has not received any invitation to face-to-face talks around parades”.
“He has received no private communication from the Orange Order so there’s no invitation to defer,” he said.
The Down and Connor cleric said at the time the invitation was issued, the Parish Priest of St Patrick’s, Fr Michael Sheehan, “was engaged in discussions” around parading.
“He responded to that open letter, and deferred a public visit to the Covenant exhibition to a later stage but he welcomed the opportunity for discussions around parading. The deferral was in no way to indicate there was a closure to ongoing dialogue.”