Priest accused of ‘imprudently’ holding mass in sea with inflatable sun lounger as altar

Bernasconi has apologised for offence after holding mass at sea. Photo: Twitter

 CROTONE – A parish priest from Milan who celebrated a Roman Catholic Mass in the sea using an inflatable sun lounger as an altar and only wearing swimming trunks has been placed under investigation for the unorthodox service, Italian judicial authorities said Thursday. 

 Father Mattia Bernasconi, assistant parish priest of San Luigi Gonzaga in Milan was in Calabria with a group of young people for a volunteer camp organised by Libera, an anti-mafia organisation. The Mass was supposed to take place in a pine forest near the beach, however this space was occupied by an event organised by a separate association.

 A lack of shaded areas combined with the sweltering heat led the priest to the water. Equipped with an inflatable sun lounger and wearing his swimming trunks below his bare midriff, he began to conduct the Mass to the group of 20 or so children on the beach of Capo Colonna, who also wore bikinis and swim trunks.

 This spectacle attracted the attention of other beachgoers, as well as social media, where photos and videos of the Mass went viral and received heavy criticism from Catholics. 

 Giuseppe Capoccia, the chief prosecutor of Crotone, reported that the priest had been put under investigation for an “offence to a religious confession.” While mass is permitted to be held outside, “it is necessary to maintain that minimum of decorum and attention to the symbols required by the very nature of liturgical celebrations,” said the archdiocese of Crotone in a statement. 

 Fr. Bernasconi in a response published on Wednesday, said, “It was absolutely not my intention to trivialise the Eucharist,” adding that the service was supposed to “symbolise a thank you to the land that hosted us.” 

 “It was naïve of me to not give the symbols due weight,” he said in his apology letter that has been published on the parish website, apologising for his good intentions that were “marked by naivety and superficiality,” and vowing to not hold a Mass of the sort again.