Page last updated at 10:20 GMT, Monday, 21 April 2008 11:20 UK

Priest in church beggars warning

Father Aidan Troy
Father Aidan Troy made his comments in the parish bulletin

A Catholic priest has urged his parishioners not to give money to foreign nationals holding unauthorised collections outside church doors.

Writing in the parish weekly bulletin, Father Aidan Troy told the congregation at Holy Cross church in Ardoyne, north Belfast of his concerns.

In some instances, the collectors may be "professional beggars being used by unseen people", he said.

Fr Troy said the beggars' actions were affecting regular church collections.

"The gospel encourages us to assist those in need, but we have no way of knowing what the situation of these people really is or how needy they are," he wrote in the bulletin.

"People here are so good and they feel guilty at not giving. The collectors' style is to hold a holy picture up in front of people and plead for money.

"There's a limited amount of cash in the parish and this does take away from the established collections."


It is understood such unauthorised begging has become more frequent at churches throughout Ireland.

Fr Troy told BBC News on Monday that it presented priests with a dilemma.

"There's nothing you can do. You can't move them out of the grounds and I wouldn't do that.

"There's no element of racism here. If these people or anyone came to me looking for help I would provide it. I would ask from the altar for people to help.

"But our help can only be short term. After that, our role would be to advise them of the help they could get from statutory agencies etc.

"I just want our parishioners to know that it is not a violation of their religious beliefs if they don't give to these collections," Fr Troy said.

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