50-person limit for large churches to be reviewed this week

The 50-person limit for churches is likely to be revisited by the National Public Health Emergency Team when it meets on Thursday.
50-person limit for large churches to be reviewed this week
The Government asked NPHET to give “further consideration” to the maximum number of people who can attend church and religious services. Picture: Getty
The Government asked NPHET to give “further consideration” to the maximum number of people who can attend church and religious services. Picture: Getty

The 50-person limit for churches is likely to be revisited by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) when it meets on Thursday.

The Government asked NPHET to give “further consideration” to the maximum number of people who can attend church and religious services.

The maximum attendance in any indoor space will be 50 from next Monday — increasing to 100 three weeks later.

There is a concern as the virus is known to spread when people are at close quarters in an enclosed space for a prolonged period.

“Large churches, however, can accommodate many more than 50 or 100 people, even with strict social distancing. Services last less than 90 minutes,” said a government spokesperson.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin described the 50-person limit for churches as “strange and disappointing”.

The Dublin archbishop said people have been looking forward to being able to join fully in congregational worship: “This is something that is very important for their spiritual life and personal wellbeing and is indeed effectively their right.

“It is obviously disappointing that with the reopening for public worship there is a blanket restriction to the participation of a maximum of 50 in these first weeks.”

He said it seems strange that a church with a capacity of 1,500 people can only have 50 people when there are large retail outlets “brimming” with people.

He added: “I hope that it will be possible to come to a more reasonable and responsible situation in which numbers permitted to attend Mass could be proportionate to the size of each church.”

He is also concerned that in a parish of more than 10,000 members, just 50 might be able to attend Mass.

Church of Ireland Archdeacon of Dublin, David Pierpoint, said churches may have to turn people away when they reach the limit.
Church of Ireland Archdeacon of Dublin, David Pierpoint, said churches may have to turn people away when they reach the limit.

The archbishop said a huge effort had been made to make churches safe and that should be included in the considerations.

Church of Ireland Archdeacon of Dublin, David Pierpoint, agreed with the Catholic's archbishops views on the 50-person limit for churches when speaking on RTÉ radio.

He said there appears to be “some sort of anomaly” with the Government's plan to reopen society and business, with churches restricted to 50 people, no matter what their size.

He said he does not doubt that people will have to be turned away from Christ Church Cathedral and St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin if the 50-person rule remains.

“It would be very sad to have to have somebody at the door with a clicking machine and saying: 'Sorry, we've had our 50 people, you cannot come in'.”

More in this section

Lunchtime News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up