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Rediff.com  » News » The punching padre: Irish priest boxes for charity

The punching padre: Irish priest boxes for charity

March 20, 2015 09:10 IST

A priest in Ireland’s County Offaly has joined the long Irish Catholic tradition of priests engaging in pugilism.

Fr Pierre Pepper, who has spent the last two months training for an amateur boxing match to raise proceeds for charity, warms up before his match in the town of Banagher in County Offaly. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

Father Pierre ‘Jalapeno’ Pepper donned the boxing gloves for the first time as part of his parish's fundraising Saint Patrick's Weekend Punch-Up.

Fr Pierre Pepper drinks a cup of tea with his rescue dog Cosmo in the Parochial House next to St Rynagh's Roman Catholic Church in the village of Banagher County Offaly. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

Like the ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican’, Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty, who loved boxing and saved many Jews during the holocaust, Pepper enjoys the sweet science as well.

Fr Pierre Pepper prays in St Rynagh's church with his rescue dog Cosmo at dawn in the village of Banagher County Offaly. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

The 37-year-old pugilist became a nationwide sensation after a YouTube video mockingly taunting his opponent went viral.

Fr Pierre Pepper turns over a tractor tyre during training at the Aspire gymnasium in the town of Clara County Offaly. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

In the video, Father Pepper quoted from the Bible and warned parishioner Jared “The Artful Dodger” Madden, his opponent, of his impending doom while five other priests look on menacingly.

Fr Pierre Pepper reacts during training at the Aspire gymnasium in the town of Clara County Offaly. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

“The Lord says vengeance is mine... say your prayers, because judging time is close at hand,” his opponent is told.

Fr Pierre Pepper (centre) exchanges punches with Jared Madden during his amateur boxing match in the town of Banagher in County Offaly March. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

Hundreds of locals in the small town of Banagher, on the banks of the River Shannon in central Ireland, packed into a marquee at the back of a pub Saturday night to see the clash of priest versus parishioner.

Fr Pierre Pepper reacts after defeating Jared Madden during his amateur boxing match in the town of Banagher in County Offaly. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

While the event was purely to raise money for charity, Father Pepper said it also gave him the opportunity to meet the local community outside of church.

Fr Pierre Pepper is carried aloft after defeating Jared Madden during his amateur boxing match in the town of Banagher in County Offaly. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

“When you're not meeting in a church, you get a chance for people to know you and for you to see another side of people," Pepper added.

Fr Pierre Pepper puts on his vestments in the Sacristy of St Rynagh's Roman Catholic Church in the village of Banagher County Offaly. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters