Catholic Church lift ban and allow child with Down Syndrome to receive First Communion
In complete reversal, special needs boy finally wins acceptance
Denum Ellarby may only be eight years old, but he has already won an important battle against discrimination that outraged millions.
When Ellarby, who has Down's Syndrome, was refused the opportunity to make his First Holy Communion alongside his young classmates it was because he was unready for the experience, his parish priest said.
He would not understand the concept of communion, or enjoy 'participation in the mass,' Father Patrick Mungovin informed his shocked mother Clare.
Father Mungovin's opinion was also shared by the Diocese of Leeds, who informed the boy's parents, who live in West Yorkshire in England, that the sacrement would be withheld in Denum's case.
Clare Ellarby reacted with surprise and shock to what she called this 'cruel discrimination.'
It was not until the Daily Mail highlighted his plight in January (leading to angry headlines worldwide) that Father Mungovin began to reconsider his original decision.
Clare Ellarby collected a 400 signature petition in support of Denum from the local community, but bad publicity and blaring headlines in the world's media may have prompted the church's change of heart.
A meeting with the parish priest Father Patrick Mungovin and the boy’s headteacher was hastily arranged at Denum's Roman Catholic primary school, and special arrangements were quickly made for Denum to be prepared for First Communion.
Although Denum was not allowed to join his classmates in their monthly preparation sessions for First Communion, he was given private weekly religious tuition by a member of the church support staff.
That decision seems to have laid the groundwork for the church's sudden change of heart.
'I am very happy they have allowed him to take communion after all, but they have made him do more than most other people,' Clare Ellarby, 31, told the Daily Mail.
'I think they shouldn’t have done what they did in the first place and if it wasn’t for the Daily Mail and the media interest he would not have been taking part at all.
'The church, quite rightly, came in for a lot of criticism. I think they have got a way to go before properly accepting children like Denum and other people with disabilities.'
Darren Ellarby, 37, a property developer said he was glad that Father Mungovin had changed his mind. On Saturday Denum took his First Communion in front of dozens of friends and relatives.
'It was a lovely service and I am so glad we fought for Denum to be treated like anyone else,' Clare Ellarby said.
The resolution was made bittersweet by the news that three weeks earlier church officials held a First Communion party for Denum's classmates who had been prepared together, but Denum did not receive an invitation.
Church officials refused to comment on the matter to the press.
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