Church punishes priest for soccer Mass
A Catholic priest who made headlines around the world by holding an orange Mass to pray for the Dutch team before its World Cup final against Spain has been suspended by his bishop, a parish official said on Friday.
Bishop Jozef Punt of Haarlem said in a statement issued late Thursday that Rev. Paul Vlaar's packed service in the village of Obdam north of Amsterdam "did not do justice to the sacred nature of the Eucharist."
Vlaar wore an orange robe and decorated the church with orange flags. During the service he acted as a goalkeeper when a parishioner kicked a football down the aisle.
The bishop said the service "caused outrage" in the Netherlands and overseas. He ordered Vlaar to enter "a period of reflection" and suspended him from his duties.
Vlaar was not available for comment on Friday, but Obdam Parish vice chairman Win Bijman said his congregation was "shocked and disappointed" by the popular priest's suspension.
"People do not understand it. Everybody supports Pastor Paul and we don't see what was so bad that he should be temporarily suspended," Bijman said in a telephone interview.
"Maybe we allowed ourselves to be swept along a little too much in the Oranje euphoria," he added, referring to the Dutch football team. "But it is part of Pastor Paul's personality that he manages to harness that kind of enthusiasm to get people into church. The church here is full and in other places churches are empty."
Vlaar's prayers went unanswered in the final: The Netherlands lost 1-0.