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Want to eat corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day, a Lenten Friday? Cardinal gives his blessing

A traditional corned beef dinner.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Roman Catholics of Boston, fire up your crock pots without fear of the confessional: Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley says it’s OK to eat corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day this year, even though it falls on a Lenten Friday.

US Catholics over age 14 are supposed to refrain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays during Lent, the season of prayer and fasting before Easter.

Under normal circumstances, that would include March 17, 2017 — the Feast of St. Patrick, the patron saint of the Archdiocese of Boston, and normally a day for joyful celebrations of Irish culture, food, and drink. For many Irish-Americans, a dinner of corned beef and cabbage is a must.


O’Malley, the Boston archbishop whose Irish heritage may give him a special appreciation of what the Catholic News Service this week called “the corned beef conundrum,” has issued a decree responding to the situation.

“Given the importance of this feast in the life of the archdiocese and in the lives of so many of our families, I am granting a dispensation from the Friday Lenten abstinence on March 17, 2017, to those who wish to take advantage of this opportunity,” he wrote. He added that Catholics who do should consider another sacrifice or act of charity to make up for it.

A number of other US bishops have made similar exceptions this year, according to the Catholic News Service.

The Pilot, the archdiocesan newspaper, which first reported the decree, said O’Malley also made a corned beef exception in 2006, the last time St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Friday in Lent.

“However, in 2004, despite some calls from the public,” the newspaper noted, “he did not grant a dispensation to allow Red Sox fans to enjoy a hot dog when the home opener fell on Good Friday that year.”


Lisa Wangsness can be reached at