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Catholic Priest Apologizes For Riding 'Hoverboard' During Church Service

A Catholic priest who rode a "hoverboard" scooter during Christmas Eve Mass in the Philippines has fallen afoul of his diocese, which suspended Father Albert San Jose for attempting "to get the attention of the people" in a personal manner. The priest has apologized for the incident, which was recorded.

San Jose became something of a viral hit after video was posted online of him riding a self-balancing flat scooter through the aisles, singing "May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You" to the congregation, which applauded his performance at the church in Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Parish in Biñan, south of Manila.

But the Diocese of San Pablo did not approve of the priest's use of a scooter, saying, "That was wrong."

The diocese's statement focused on the requirements of celebrating Mass — not the potential safety hazards posed by hoverboard scooters that recently led major U.S. airlines to ban the devices.

"The Eucharist demands utmost respect and reverence," the diocese wrote in a statement this week. "It is the Memorial of the Lord's Sacrifice. It is the source and summit of Christian life. It is the Church's highest form of worship. Consequently, it is not a personal celebration where one can capriciously introduce something to get the attention of the people."

San Jose has promised not to repeat the performance, saying the rebuke "was a wake up call for him," according to the diocese's statement.

Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines-Public Affairs Committee, tells The Philippine Star that San Jose "went overboard" by using the scooter during Mass, saying that gimmicks distract from the solemnity of the occasion.

"You can innovate, you can be creative, but your creativity and innovation has its limitations," he says.

The priest's supporters have urged the diocese to reconsider, with one woman writing on its Facebook page, "BRING THE PRIEST BACK and I am not even [Catholic]."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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