Heartbroken Boy Misses Communion; Council Defends Policy on Religious Education

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THE Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education yesterday defended its religious education policy after a north Belfast priest prevented a seven-year-old from making his First Communion because he was once a pupil at an integrated school.

The Rev Peter O'Hare, of St Mary's parish in Whitewell, earlier defended his decision to refuse P4 pupil David Campbell Communion because of his lack of religious upbringing.

He said: ''All our children are prepared in P3 and P4 classes for First Communion. This child was only a pupil here in P4 so he simply wasn't ready for it.''

But yesterday Mr O'Hare declined to comment.

David has only been going to St Mary's since September and before that he was at an integrated school in Lisburn where the family used to live.

David's mother Mary said her son is ''heartbroken'' .

''David was taken out of Communion practice in front of his whole class one week before the Communion proper and told he wouldn't be allowed to take the Sacraments with his classmates.

''He is heartbroken and thinks there is something wrong with him just because he has been to an integrated school. Now he's been made to feel like an outcast because of this priest's petty-mindedness,'' she said.

Last night a spokesman for NICIE said this was the first case of this kind they had come across. …