Free Presbyterian ministers condemn cross community Easter parade
The Parish Priest at St Malachy's in Castlewellan has said he is saddened after Free Presbyterian ministers condemned a cross community Good Friday Easter Unity march as a "sad and shameful act of wilful apostasy".
The annual march is due to take place tomorrow between members of the town's Catholic church and neighbouring St Paul's Church of Ireland.
Free Presbyterian ministers from across Co Down have now called on local worshippers to not "participate in any false unity".
Fr Denis McKinlay, though, said the march will go ahead as planned, as it has done for many years.
"I've been here for 10 years and each year we've had this march," he said.
"It's a long-standing tradition in the town and one we want to continue for the community who always support it.
"I find it sad that people who preach the Christian gospel would seek to deny friends the opportunity to walk alongside friends.
"I understand the Churches Forum will be issuing a unified response to the concerns expressed, but from a personal point of view I would ask why these concerns have been raised at this time when the march has been happening for so many years?"
In their letter published in the Mourne Observer, the group of Free Presbyterian ministers branded the joint the march "shameful".
"We express our sincere concern at the proposed Easter Unity march... organised by the Castlewellan Area Bible/Prayer Group and Churches Forum," they wrote.
"We feel it is our duty to highlight this sad and shameful act of wilful apostasy in the town of Castlewellan.
"The Church of Ireland is supposedly a Protestant denomination; therefore we would implore St Paul's Church of Ireland in Castlewellan to return back to its former Biblical and Protestant position by not participating in an act of departure from Christ by uniting with the Church of Rome.
"The scriptures make it abundantly clear that any 'church' which promotes the ungodly doctrine of salvation by works and does not accept the Lord Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation is not a Christian Church; but rather an institution that true Christians should be separated from.
"This is undoubtedly the position of Roman Catholicism.
"There are many doctrinal differences between the Church of Ireland and the Church of Rome... they preach and believe very different messages and ultimately cannot be united.
"The scriptures plead with all born again Christians to: "...come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing..." (2 Cor 6:17).
"We hope that this Biblical warning and sincere appeal will be heeded."
The Belfast Telegraph contacted St Paul's Church of Ireland but no-one was available for comment last night.