A man holding a protest against churches being closed during the Covid-19 crisis says he wouldn’t be surprised if he is still protesting by Christmas Day.
Pensioner, Sean Barry, started his protest outside his local church in North Cork last Monday week and says he doesn’t blame local clergy but “a weak hierarchy".
Mr Barry is mounting his protest daily outside the closed front door of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in the village of Rathcormac, which is in the Diocese of Cloyne.
He sits in a chair there for an hour every day between 2pm-3pm and is adamant he will keep that up every day until the door is open.
“I know that could be a long time. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m here on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day,” said the farmer.
He says he understands why the Catholic Church has stopped Masses, but can’t see any reason why churches can’t remain open for people who might want to say some prayers during the pandemic: “It’s just a small sacrifice to make when one considers that our forefathers risked their lives going to Mass Rocks."
He pointed out that the Church of the Immaculate Conception could easily hold 300 people.
So, therefore, it is large enough to cater for a few who would want to come in to say some prayers while adhering to proper social distancing: “I’m not trying to bash the Church. Our parish priest, Fr Joe O’’Keeffe, calls over to see me most days and I get on very well with him. I think it’s the hierarchy who are weak."
I know that could be a long time. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m here on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
He said that at most there might be a dozen people who would come into the church at any one time to say prayers and they could all easily fit in the church while using the required social distancing: “I’m not talking about saying masses.
"I’m just talking about letting people in to say a few prayers and light a few candles."
Fr Jim Moore, Cloyne Diocese spokesman, said they all regret the temporary closure of churches: “This applies especially to parishioners who love their local church. This is a decision not taken lightly.
"It is done for the common good, and the welfare of all, especially those who are vulnerable. Even with social distancing, the surfaces of pews, shrines etc could be sources of infection at this time."
He pointed out that a number of priests are elderly and therefore vulnerable to the virus: “Cocooning applies to clergy as well as everyone else over 70, as they also are called to follow the direction of public health authorities."