Howth Osama hoax causes red faces

By Scott Jamison

In what appears to have been a hoax, residents of the town of Howth, County Dublin, were bewildered this past weekend to see dead al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden listed for two memorial services in their parish newsletter.

The Catholic church in the seaside town named the terrorist among those to whom it planned to devote a Mass to.

In addition to carrying information about upcoming communions and confirmations, the Church of the Assumption newsletter contained a brief announcement which read: "Osama Bin Laden (recently deceased)" adding that the man who had topped America's most wanted list for more than a decade was scheduled to have two Masses said in his honor the following Thursday. The information was also carried without any explanation or clarification on the church's website.

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News of the proposed service spread quickly via social networking site Twitter, with some users speculating the decision was a Christian act of forgiveness and others marveling at the insensitivity of the move.

However, a spokeswoman for the Dublin archdiocese expressed surprise that such a Mass would be scheduled and subsequently confirmed it was a hoax.

The spokeswoman said someone had telephoned the church last week asking for two services to be dedicated to the former al-Qaeda leader's memory. His name had been taken without question by a church official and included on the list for upcoming prayers without the sanction of the parish priest Monsignor Brendan Houlihan.

Monsignor Houlihan was said to be very upset at bin Laden's inclusion on the Mass list and insisted that under no circumstances would a memorial service be held in the church him.

"A lot of hurt has been caused by this hoax," the archdiocese spokeswoman said, shortly before this week's newsletter was taken down from the church's website.