Irish priests are hoping to take advantage of Irish shopping mania in the lead up to Christmas--by hearing confessions in shopping centers.

From December 8th the Irish Catholic newspaper reports 16 priests from the Shannon diocese in the Clare area will be showing up every day in the busy shopping centers to offer confession rather than shopping bargains.The priests will be available to shoppers inspired by Pope Francis’s words to seek out those in need wherever they are.

Shannon’s Parish Priest Fr Tom Ryan told The Irish Catholic the initiative “was in response to Pope Francis’ call to priests to go out to the market place and proclaim the Gospel”.

“There are shopping centers in every large town in the country. There is no reason why they couldn’t do the same,” he said.

According to Fr Ryan, “The Year of Mercy is the opportunity to do that. I think if the initiative is of benefit to just one person the day will have been worthwhile,” he said.

The head of one of the largest shopping center has welcomed the move. Skycourt Manager Pat Kelly said he was very supportive of the initiative.

“I jumped on it straight away as I thought it was a great idea. It gives Christmas shoppers an opportunity to do their shopping under one roof and avail of the opportunity to meet with a priest and have a chat in a neutral environment where they are comfortable,” he said.

Capuchin Friar Fr Dan Joe O’Mahony, said ministering in large shopping malls was about “meeting people where they are at”. “it’s all about getting the Church into the market place which is where the Lord worked himself”.

“You can’t go wrong. I’m all in favor of it,” he said.

Jim Lovett, a prominent Catholic lay worker, described as “wonderful” the notion of providing confession. “It would be a wonderful thing if there was a priest permanently available for Confessions,” he said.