A seemingly innocent friendly gesture by the parish priest in the Guadalhorce valley town of Álora has not gone down well with his bosses at the Diocese of Malaga.
Juan de Jesús Báez, priest at the Roman Catholic Iglesia de la Encarnación had invited the Reverend Jenny Lancaster, a retired Church of England vicar from Newcastle, to take part in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion). The Reverend Lancaster was part of a singing visit by a choral society from northeast England arranged to coincide with Mass. Reports said that their British choirmaster has a home in the Álora area and is well-known locally.
However, when photographs emerged online within the churchgoing community of an Anglican minister holding the chalice in a Catholic church last Friday, All Saints' Day, the Bishop of Malaga was not best pleased. Apparently the same had happened in 2017 although no photographic evidence had been published at that time.
"I am very repentant. I ask for forgiveness from God and the Church," said the Mexican-born parish priest, who explained that it was never his intention to commit sacrilege. "My only aim was to welcome [the choir] warmly. I am very fond of them and Reverend Jenny is a woman of God. I am surprised by all the upset it has caused; I have unwittingly sinned," he added.
The reply from the Bishop
The office of the Bishop of Malaga reacted on Tuesday to the incident in a communiqué in which it apologised for the "confusion" that the Church of England reverend's participation had caused for the local Catholic parishioners.
"Catholic priests and ministers of non-Catholic churches or religious communities can't both take part in the celebration of the Eucharist," it went on.
Not part of the doctrine
"The Diocese of Malaga is very sorry for the damage this gesture has caused to those who don't know the doctrine and who have been confused," adds the statement.