Catholic society plans to hold daily Latin Mass at ex-Presbyterian church
The Catholic society that bought a Presbyterian church in north Belfast after it closed its doors has said it plans to celebrate the Tridentine Mass daily.
Canon Wulfran Lebocq, the Pro-Provincial and Prior at the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest's mission in Limerick, took part in the opening Latin Mass in Belfast.
He told the this newspaper: "We are well pleased with the progress so far.
"We plan to restore the church building in ways that will make it more suitable for our style of worship.
"We are taking advice about the best way forward and we are aware that a full and proper restoration will take some time to complete."
Canon Lebocq said the institute was pleased with the response so far.
"We have up to 100 people at some of our services. The people come from Belfast and parts of rural Northern Ireland," he explained.
"They are attracted by the sacredness of the liturgy, by its sense of order and beauty, by our vestments and by our music, highlighting Gregorian chant.
"We notice that there a lot of young people at our Mass and I think that they are attracted by the liturgy. At a time of confusion, they find a clarity in the teaching of the Catholic Catechism."
Canon Lebocq said that while the Tridentine Mass was aimed at Catholics, the church was open daily to everyone.
"When we made it known that we were thinking of coming to Belfast, some people warned us that there might be difficulties. However, we have encountered no obstacles," he added.
"We have been welcomed warmly by Bishop Treanor and the local clergy. The Presbyterians who sold us the building expressed to us their pleasure that it would still be open for Divine worship."
Canon Lebocq, who was born and brought up in Burgundy, France, has been a member of the institute for more than two decades.
In 2006 the society was invited to the Irish Republic and set up a mission in Limerick.
Since 2009 Canon Lebocq has been serving twice a month in Belfast.
The former Fortwilliam and Macrory Presbyterian Church was bought by the institute with an interest-free loan that it intends to pay off over the next five years.
The society celebrates the classical Roman Liturgy, or Latin Mass, in its extraordinary form, as promulgated by Pope John XXIII in 1962, as well as Pope (now Saint) John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and the current Pope Francis.
The institute has many branches around the world, but the mother house is based in Florence.
The average age is 24 for seminarians, 28 for sisters, 41 for oblates and 39 for priests.
The institute was founded in 1990 and has 115 priests who work across the globe.
It has missions in Gabon, the US, England, France, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Sweden and Rome.
It lays a special emphasis on the harmony between faith and culture and has acquired a reputation for promoting the arts, especially sacred music and architecture.
Its founder, Mgr Gilles Wach, who took a leading part in the opening Tridentine Mass in Belfast, was ordained to the priesthood by Pope John Paul II in Rome.