Newspapers published photographs of President McAleese, a practicing Catholic, receiving the chalice at the service.
Catholic theologians and clergy pointed out that Catholics were not permitted to receive communion in Protestant churches, but an opinion poll showed that 78 percent of those questioned supported the president's action. More women than men (82 percent versus 69 percent) agreed that President McAleese was right to receive communion at the service.
The controversy was heightened when Dublin's Catholic Archbishop, Desmond Connell, attacked the president's actions. In a national radio interview, Archbishop Connell said: "We celebrate the Eucharist in the light of our Catholic faith, which we regard as the apostolic faith. You cannot at the same time celebrate the Eucharist professing that apostolic faith as we would maintain it, and professing a faith that is other than the Apostolic faith, that is incompatible with it.
"What happens at that stage is-- though people do not seem to appreciate it-- that, since they have their own Catholic faith and they profess that, what they are in fact doing in partaking of communion in a Protestant church is a sham. Therefore it seems to me that it is profoundly insulting to the Church of Ireland or to any other Protestant church...If you want to be truly courteous in attending a Church of Ireland service, you will not engage in the deception that is involved in taking communion."
One leading Church of Ireland clergyman had claimed that a Catholic could take communion from a Protestant in exceptional circumstances, but Archbishop Connell said that was wrong.
"Under no circumstances is that possible," he added. "What is possible is that a Catholic priest might give the Eucharist to a Protestant in exceptional circumstances, provided that the Protestant expresses a faith that is identical with the Catholic Eucharistic faith."
The interview caused outrage among Protestants, and the archbishop had to clarify his use of the word "sham." He said he did not mean cheap or shoddy, but anything that was not what it appeared to be.
Later, writing in the Irish Times newspaper, Archbishop Connell said that at stake was, "not only the nature of the Eucharist, but the future of ecumenism and the ecumenical movement." He said if the rules for intercommunion were changed because of public pressure, there could be "a blurring of the boundaries about what we believe about the Eucharist and about who we are."
The Irish Times attacked what it called Archbishop Connell's "ungenerous and forthright condemnation" which it said members of other churches found "embarrassing and offensive." In an editorial on the controversy, the newspaper said: "For devout adherents of either church, the theological issues are important and for committed Catholics the rule of Canon Law is a serious, indeed a binding, matter. For the generality of citizens however, the issue will be judged on more prosaic grounds. Was it a healing gesture? Was it intended to lessen differences, rather than accentuate them? Did it signify trust and respect for another tradition? And the answers to these questions must be yes, very emphatically."
But the Sunday Tribune newspaper, in its editorial, said: "As the interpretation of the Eucharist is central to the differences between the Catholic Church and other Christian religions, it should have been no real surprise to hear Archbishop Connell emphasize the importance of the matter, even if his approach caused considerable embarrassment to more a la carte Catholics."
Following Connell's radio interview, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Walton Empey, said he was "deeply saddened" by the controversy, but his Church was "confident of its Catholicity, its apostolicity and its understanding and discipline" about the Eucharist.
And the head of the Church of Ireland, Archbishop Robin Eames of Armagh, said he regretted that "something as sacred to the faithful of either the Anglican or Roman Catholic tradition as the Eucharist or Holy Communion should become the source of any remarks or speculation which would be divisive."
Archbishop Eames said his Church welcomed "participation in the Eucharist of a baptized and practicing member of any Christian tradition."
Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood, said the procedure will let mothers end their unborn children's lives without having to wait the present six or seven weeks. Doctors have been reluctant to perform abortions before six or seven weeks of gestation because of the lack of accurate early pregnancy tests. But better ultrasound imaging that shows the gestational sac in its earliest stages and more sensitive pregnancy tests, along with the new surgical technique, have made such early abortions possible. The procedure uses a hand-held syringe rather than a vacuum pump and takes less than two minutes.
While proponents of the procedure say it lets mothers get the abortion over with and get on with their lives, critics say that abortion is morally wrong at any stage of development. "Scientifically speaking, there's no difference between a fertilized egg and what you have three weeks later," Laura Echevarria, spokesman for the National Right to Life Committee, told The New York Times. "Saying it's OK to kill it in the early stages because you're more comfortable with that is completely arbitrary."
Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana told La Repubblica that the Communist leader had made several promises concerning the papal visit during a meeting last Thursday. The Holy Father's visit to the Communist country has been the occasion of several changes by the atheist government which has allowed previously banned outdoor religious celebrations and agreed to declare Christmas a public holiday this year. "They assured us a presence in the mass media in January to prepare for the visit. Good. They guaranteed television coverage in Havana when the Pope arrives. We consider all this a stage in a continuous process," the cardinal said.
Meanwhile, Cuban-born singer Gloria Estefan, now a US citizen, has told Catholic officials that she will not perform during the Holy Father's visit because of her opposition to Castro. "We will never sing in Cuba while Fidel Castro's regime exists," Emilio Estefan, her husband and manager, said Friday. "The day Gloria sings in Cuba, she will do so because Cuba is free -- and we trust that this will happen soon." He added that Gloria holds Pope John Paul in high esteem, and they support the Holy Father's trip on January 21-25 because it could lead to changes.
In a related story, the archbishop of Miami on Friday officially canceled a planned pilgrimage cruise to Cuba for Pope John Paul's visit there next month because of opposition from influential Cuban exiles in South Florida.
Archbishop John Favarola said he will lead a one-day pilgrimage to Cuba, flying to Havana for the climactic papal Mass and back to Miami in the same day. "It is now evident to me that the cruise ship has become a source of serious tension in our community," Archbishop Favarola said. Cuban exile leaders said the planned multi-day cruise would be seen as an endorsement of President Fidel Castro's government and would provide US dollars to the Communist government.
Some opponents of the cruise said what made it most deplorable was the idea of a luxury vessel carrying Cubans over the same route that thousands have used to flee the Communist island on makeshift rafts. Many died of dehydration, drowning, or sharks before reaching the US or being picked up by the Coast Guard. The archdiocese, representing about 2 million Catholics in the Miami area, had hired a Norwegian Cruise Line ship for the trip and was charging $599 to $1,399 for cabins. Of the 1,000 berths available, only about 400 had been sold.