Bishops were left with sore heads after they discovered the March 17 festivities will clash next year with the second day of Holy Week.
Under the Church’s rules, the saint’s feast day does not rank as high as the Monday before Easter and has to be moved.
After much deliberation, Rome gave Irish authorities the green light to shift the official religious celebrations two days back to Saturday, March 15. Fr Peter Jones of the Liturgy Commission insisted the move was necessary under the laws that govern the Church diary.
“It’s about the religious aspect of the feast and mass on the day. It’s not about whether it’s a public holiday or not, it’s not about whether sports events and parades take place,” he said.
“It’s about the Holy Day which can’t be observed on the Monday of Holy Week and therefore has to be transferred in accordance with the usual rules.”
In strict accordance with the rules, next year’s St Patrick’s Day should have been moved to the next available day in the Church’s calendar, April 1.
But senior Irish clerics were anxious to keep the date as close as possible to the international civic celebrations, which are often planned years in advance.
The last time St Patrick’s Day had to be moved was 1940 when it was changed to April 3 because it coincided with Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week.
The next time the feast day will have to be changed is the year 2160.
Tourism chiefs do not expect the change to impact on the tens of thousands of visitors that flock to Ireland for the annual celebrations. Sinéad Grace of Tourism Ireland said: “I wouldn’t imagine too many people are aware of the religious aspect. I can’t see that it will make any difference to the bookings of hotels and B&Bs.”
Organisers of the celebrations in Dublin confirmed the main parade would go ahead on the traditional date. A spokeswoman said: “Years of planning go into each St Patrick’s Festival and arrangements have been made by visiting bands, tourists and related organisations based on the official date of March 17.”