Archbishop: 'People don't have to go straight back to gathering for worship'

The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland is "very confident" that measures put in place by parishes around the country will allow churches to reopen safely.
Archbishop: 'People don't have to go straight back to gathering for worship'
Archbishop Eamon Martin

The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland is "very confident" that measures put in place by parishes around the country will allow churches to reopen safely.

Under Phase 3 of the planned reopening of the country, religious buildings and places of worship can reopen from Monday.

However, churches and places of worship will be exempt from the 50-person indoor limit as there are certain large churches that can safely accommodate larger numbers of people.

Catholic Archbishop of Ireland and Primate of All Ireland Eamon Martin said that parishes and support teams across the country have been working for two months in preparation for the reopening of places of worship.

"I am very confident. All of our parishes around the country, both North and South have been working on this issue for two months. Many parishes have put in place small support teams to assist the priest and the pastoral council with the safe reopening of churches."

"I think that there will be a collective responsibility within a parish where people realise that we are still in a difficult time.

"We want to go back, we want to worship safely together and we want to do so in a way in which we can maximise the use of the space in our churches but, at the same time, adhere to physical distancing and cleanliness requirements. I am confident that this can be done," he told RTÉ's Morning Ireland.

However, Archbishop Martin urged mass goers — particularly older worshippers — not to rush to return to services.

"People don't have to go straight back to gathering for worship. It's there for them but we are encouraging people to be patient, to take their time if they are vulnerable in any way. If you are elderly, hold back for a few days, a few weeks."

"Perhaps come out on the weekdays rather than a large gathering on Sundays. I think if everyone takes a responsible approach, then the return to public worship will give everyone a lift and inject some hope into the situation for all of us," he said.

The Primate of All Ireland said there will be a "collective responsibility" on both parishes and worshippers to ensure the return to services is done in a way that protects all.

"Thankfully, all over the country, people are volunteering to come forward to assist their local parish but we have made it very clear to pastoral councils and to priests that the health and safety of people is paramount and the Church should really only be opened if these arrangements are in place," he said.

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