Priest criticised for celebrating mass at sea using blow-up mattress as altar

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A priest has been reprimanded for celebrating Sunday mass in the sea using an inflatable mattress as an altar.

Father Don Mattia Bernasconi, a priest from Milan, Italy, decided to take mass to the beach during a heatwave, with congregants gathering in the water to partake in the service.

Images of the service show the shirtless priest conducting mass in front of a blow-up mattress laid in the shallows of the Mediterranean, as people gather in bathing suits on the shoreline.

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Fr Bernasconi's actions have got him in trouble with his archdiocese, which flatly condemned the service.

"The Eucharistic celebration has a particular language, it is made with gestures and symbols that it is fair to respect and value, they must not be renounced with such superficiality," the archdiocese of Crotone said in a statement, according to Excelsior.

"It is necessary to maintain that minimum decorum and attention to symbols."

The archdiocese added that in "special cases, during retreats, school camps, in vacation spots, it is possible to celebrate mass outside a church" but that it "always necessary to make contact with the ecclesial leaders where one is, in order to advise each other on the most appropriate way to carry out such a eucharistic celebration".

Fr Bernasconi sent a letter to the Archdiocese in which he issued an apology and admitted that his actions were "perhaps imprudent".

He said the mass had been conducted at the conclusion of a week of work with young people.

“It was absolutely not my intention to trivialise the eucharist," he said.

He added: "It was simply the mass at the end of a week of work.

“But the symbols are strong, it is true, and they speak, sometimes in a different way than we would like. It was naive of me not to give them due weight.”

Fr Bernasconi went on to "humbly apologise" from the "bottom of his heart" for the confusion caused by his actions.

The Crotone prosecutor's office has opened an investigation into "offending a religious denomination" following the incident.

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