Religious leaders fail to convince Taoiseach to lift Covid restrictions

Martin and four archbishops met after they called on the Government to reconsider Covid-19 restrictions on allowing Catholics to physically attend religious services
Religious leaders fail to convince Taoiseach to lift Covid restrictions

Taoiseach Michael Martin and the four archbishops in Ireland met after they called on the Government to reconsider Covid-19 restrictions on allowing Catholics to physically attend religious services. Picture: Julien Behal

Physical attendance at Catholic services are to remain off-limits following a meeting between religious leaders and Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

The Taoiseach and the four archbishops in Ireland met after they called on the Government to reconsider Covid-19 restrictions on allowing Catholics to physically attend religious services.

Ireland is the only country in Europe which is not allowing parishioners to physically attend Catholic ceremonies or other denominational services such as the Jewish and Muslim communities.

Three weeks ago the Primate of All Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Cashel and Emly Kieran O’Reilly, and Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary sent a letter expressing concern about the effects the restrictions are having on parishes and individuals to the Taoiseach.

Bishop of Ossory Dermot Farrell also attended the meeting on Wednesday night to discuss the current Level 5 restrictions at a location which has not been disclosed.

In a statement, the Catholic Communications office said that their discussions focused mainly on the effect which the current Covid-19 restrictions are having on the health and well-being of the faith community and the "great desire” to return to worship as soon as possible.

The statement said: “The Archbishops emphasised that they are fully supportive of the public health messages but highlighted that the coming together in prayer and worship, especially for Mass and the Sacraments, is fundamental to Christian tradition and a source of nourishment for the life and well-being of whole communities."

The importance of gathering for worship as a source of consolation and hope at Christmas time was stressed.

"The need for a shared understanding of the effects of the pandemic as it evolves and to align our response accordingly was recognised. All agreed the importance of ongoing constructive engagement and solidarity in facing and overcoming the challenges of Covid-19 together," the statement added.

When level 5 restrictions are eased the Government has mooted that the country will return to a level 3 advisory meaning that physical attendance at services will still not be allowed.

The Archbishops emphasised the “mammoth effort” that has been made by priests and volunteers at parish level to ensure that gatherings in Church are as safe as possible and the consistent messaging from the Church about the protection of health and life for all in the community, particularly the vulnerable.

The Taoiseach outlined the reasoning behind the Government’s Plan for Living with Covid-19 and the need to strike the right balance between all forms of social and economic activity and public health.

He also thanked the Archbishops for their support and acknowledged the major role that religious leaders have in supporting people and giving hope at this time of stress and worry — reaching out to those who may feel isolated or marginalised.

Christian leaders from the Protestant and Pentecostal and New churches across the country have also called on public worship to be allowed during the restrictions.

More in this section