God will help us defeat Covid-19 faster than science so resuming Mass was a public health necessity, a priest who refused to close his church even when it breached public health restrictions, has said.
Fr PJ Hughes, a parish priest in Cavan, said files have been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions about his actions but he has continued to keep the doors open to his church.
“No progress will be made with this virus unless we turn back to faith in God," he said.
“God is the highest power. Not a scientist, not a politician.
“No one in my parish has died from Covid.”
Fr Hughes said churches were safe, well-ventilated, controlled, socially distanced environments where people should be allowed to worship.
However, internationally, places of worship have been vectors for the virus even when groups remained socially distanced.
An 80-year-old woman died after becoming infected with Covid-19 at a church service in Sydney when 12 people, all more than 3m away, were infected by one asymptomatic singer.
Analysis by the Western Sydney Local Health District suggests that virus particles spread up to 14m in that church.
John Wegner, professor of chemistry at the School of Chemistry and Environmental Research Institute at University College Cork, said religious gatherings are "high-risk" so are not being considered until May.
“There have been a number of superspreading events associated with church services around the world," Prof Wagner said.
"Many of them caused because people were not distanced properly, not wearing masks, or singing, because singing releases a lot more respiratory particles which can contain the virus and they move around the room.
"Even with distancing, if there’s poor ventilation the particles can move around the room and build up in concentrations and people can be infected, even at ranges longer than 2m. So there are concerns about church services and about the mixing that goes on afterwards.
Professor Gerry Killeen, ecologist and epidemiologist at UCC, said we are at a precarious point in the fight against Covid-19 and "a breath of wind" could tip us into a fourth wave.
“Gatherings indoors are a bad idea at present, whether those gatherings are belief-based or otherwise," he said.
“It’s touch-and-go now whether we have a fourth wave.
“The tiniest little thing could push us over the edge now.”