Page last updated at 10:48 GMT, Sunday, 18 October 2009 11:48 UK

Church leader speaks on Mass row

Nelson McCausland
Nelson McCausland has said he will not attend a Catholic Church service

A Protestant church leader has said that the culture minister would not be endorsing Catholicism if he attended a religious service in a Catholic church.

This week Nelson McCausland provoked anger in the Assembly when he said he would not attend such a service because of theological differences.

He argued that it was a matter of personal conscience.

However, Presbyterian Moderator, Dr Stafford Carson, said he would not have problem attending a Catholic service.

Speaking on Radio Ulster's Sunday Sequence programme, Dr Carson said: "I think very often personal and human connections take us into those kind of situations.

"I don't think we'll want to cause offence or hurt in any way and a minister attending a service like that does not necessarily mean that he would endorse all that that denomination believes."

Dr Carson said it was for the minister himself to decide but explained that "very often people, on the occasion of a funeral or a bereavement or something, believe that it is important to identify with the people rather than with the theology".

'Religious liberty'

In an Assembly debate on Monday, Sinn Fein said Mr McCausland's refusal to attend a Catholic church service had "no place in an inclusive society" and said that it was his ministerial duty "to serve, respect and engage with all sections of society regardless of their religious background".

Mr McCausland said he would attend a "cultural or community event in a Roman Catholic building" in his role as minister and pointed out he had already attended a concert by the Ulster Youth Choir at Clonard monastery in west Belfast.

He said his issue was "one solely of worship" and argued that Sinn Fein was trying to deny him his basic human right of "religious liberty and freedom of conscience".

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