Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan is "very disappointed" at a statement released by the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin after she led prayers at her local church on Saturday when no priest showed up to say mass.

She warned that if the number of priests being ordained continues to decline, then "the church is built on a foundation of sand and will crumble by the time the next generation grows up." 

Addressing reporters this evening, Minister Madigan responded to a statement from the Archbishop accusing her of "deeply disrespectful" actions and pushing "a particular agenda." She said she is "surprised at the personal attack that was made against me."

She said: "The only agenda I am pushing is one of equality. I feel there should be equality in the church just as I believe there should be equality in all facets of society."

The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said: "This was an incident that was not of my making. The circumstances just happened."

Reading a statement she said: "Although women play a major role in the day-to-day operations of the church, including in my own parish, I believe the church has to change to reflect society as it is today."

She added that "I would also like to clarify that I never once said that I said mass. That was a newspaper headline. We simply carried on with the service as best we could."

She said she has received messages from hundreds of people, including in her own parish. 

The Dublin Rathdown TD added: "If I did not use this opportunity to highlight the inequalities I see in the Church, then I would be turning a blind eye and I am not prepared to do that."

If she gets the opportunity in August, she said she would raise these matters with Pope Francis. 

Minister Madigan stressed the importance of highlighting inequalities in the church: "I see altar girls there. I don't see them becoming priests. That is something that needs to be addressed. I also don't see any reason why priests shouldn't marry." 

She said that "I was somewhat surprised at the personal attack that was made against me. 

In his statement issued today, Archbishop Martin said the minister's comments about the situation that arose in Mount Merrion at the weekend, caused parishioners "considerable distress." 

He said "there is no shortage of priests in the Archdiocese of Dublin for the celebration of Sunday Mass. Due to a misunderstanding, the priest assigned to Mass in the parish of Mount Merrion on Saturday evening, failed to turn up. It is in no way correct to say that the Minister 'said Mass'.

The Archbishop added: "It is regrettable that Minister Madigan used this occasion to push a particular agenda. Her expressed view that a mix up in a Dublin parish on one particular Saturday evening should lead to the universal Church changing core teachings is bizarre."

His statement concluded: "Minister Madigan might consider listening to the voices of those people who disagree with her public comments, she might consider the hurt she has caused to parishioners who deem her actions deeply disrespectful."