DUBLIN Eamonn Murphy hopes his prayers will help secure a "No" vote when predominantly Catholic Ireland votes on the European Union's reform treaty next month.
Some Catholics fear the treaty will create loopholes allowing the EU to force Ireland to relax its strict abortion laws, permit same sex marriages and erode what they regard as traditional religious values.
"Prayer can change the course of history," said Murphy, who runs a Catholic centre in the capital Dublin. "We cannot delegate to a more centralized authority our decision-making rights on matters so close to home."
Ireland is the only EU state planning a referendum on the treaty and a "no" vote could sink a treaty designed to end years of diplomatic wrangling over reform of the bloc's institutions.
An opinion poll at the weekend showed the "Yes" camp's lead had narrowed in the past two weeks, and the vote on June 12 could be close.
A number of Catholic prayer groups have put rejection of the treaty at the centre of their supplications. Some have sent text messages urging the devout to recite the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, a rosary-like prayer cycle which they believe is especially effective.
Ann Harland, a part-time bank worker, said she was praying about the outcome on June 12.
"I want the laws of God and Christian values to be upheld. Without it, anything goes," she said as soft devotional music played at the prayer and information centre.
The treaty replaces the defunct EU constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005. It is designed to give the bloc stronger leadership, a more democratic decision-making system and a more effective foreign policy apparatus.
An advert placed by one group in a Catholic newspaper this month called on members of the faith to reject the treaty because it would create a "new European identity based on radical secularism and atheistic philosophies".
A guide seeking to scupper the accord has also been published by another group targeting Catholic voters.
Bishops are expected to issue their formal position before the referendum.
The government has accused "no" campaigners of trying to generate fear on issues that are not directly addressed by the European Union treaty, such as abortion. Abortions are allowed in Ireland only if a mother's life is in danger.
"It is a sad reality that many of the treaty's opponents insist on trying to paint the Union as the enemy which wants to control us," Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said this week.
Martin said Ireland would continue to have absolute control over protection of the unborn and accused those who argued otherwise of mounting a "deeply cynical campaign".
A number of priests have expressed reservations even if they have so far left it up to their flocks to decide how to vote.
Dublin-based Father Cathal Price said he planned to hold a prayer vigil on the issue in the coming days.
"People must make up their own minds and pray they come to an informed decision about what they are doing," he said. "I need that direction myself."
For more stories on the referendum, visit: here