Ferns diocese will leave Communion and Confirmation decision to parishes

Ferns diocese will leave Communion and Confirmation decision to parishes

Raphoe priest, Fr Eamonn Kelly said he is happy to start planning for Confirmations and First Holy Communion ceremonies because they are doing so “under the strictest protocols” and are taking “every precaution” possible

The Bishop of Ferns has said that church communities within the diocese will be allowed to make their own decision on whether to proceed with Frist Communion and Confirmation ceremonies.

In a statement, issued on behalf of Bishop Gerard Nash, a spokesperson for the diocese says priests are asked to speak with "those involved ... with a view to deciding what is best in terms of safety, unity and overall well being".

If a decision is made to move forward with the ceremonies, the diocese asks priests to put forward a request - "with an agreed and demonstrably Covid safe plan" - to the Bishop's House.

"The diocese wishes to assist parishes as they discern their current state of preparedness for safe celebration, as public discussion continues," the spokesperson said.

"Parishes are asked to proceed in a well-considered manner and to continue to avoid risk or division."

Archbishop asks why 50 people 'bash' at Merrion Hotel is 'ok' but not communions and confirmations

The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell has questioned why it was “ok” to have 50 people at a “bash” in the Merrion Hotel yet First Holy Communions and Confirmations can not go ahead.

Parents are well capable of adhering to the guidelines he said, and it is "simply not credible” that these ceremonies can not go ahead.

The Archbishop called on the Government to “trust parents” who know best how to protect their children.

In a letter sent to priests on Tuesday, Archbishop Farrell told priests in his diocese they have permission to proceed with First Communions and Confirmations in defiance of the Government’s public health advice.

Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrelll
Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrelll

In his letter, he said: “It is a matter of profound regret that there has been no engagement with Church representatives regarding revision of public health guidelines” since bishops first expressed reservations.

Speaking to RTÉ, Archbishop Farrell said it was very unfair to suggest that parents would not be careful of their children’s health. 

People had demonstrated through their regular attendance at services that they were very careful and rigorous in observing public health guidelines, he said.

Additionally, sacraments could not be isolated from everything else that was “going on in the world.” 

There were gatherings going ahead in bars, restaurants, at sporting events, concerts along with weddings, funerals and birthday parties, he said. 

“Parents have to be trusted.”

Also speaking to RTÉ today, geneticist professor Aoife McLysaght described the decision by various clergy to allow religious ceremonies to go ahead as “absurd”.

Choices have to be made, "we can’t do everything all at once,” she said, adding that reopening is "quite delicate." 

Prof McLysaght said there could not be a situation where some think the rules do not apply to them - solidarity is required. 

She added that First Holy Communions and Confirmations are not time-sensitive events like funerals and can happen at any time.

Bishops and Archbishop are not setting a good example by stating their intention to defy public health guidelines, Prof McLysaght said.

Communions and Confirmations involved unvaccinated children and could become super spread events just a few weeks before the return to school. 

In a matter of weeks more people would be vaccinated, she added. People who were vaccinated had better personal protection, but they had a responsibility to protect the unvaccinated – children did not have a choice about vaccination, they needed to be protected against transmission of the virus.

There was a “certain impatience” at present, which was understandable but we could end up making this "more difficult for ourselves," and make it harder to "get numbers back down again."

Decision to allow Communions and Confirmations would 'inevitably' lead to Delta spread

Yesterday, the co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests warned that the decision of a number of Catholic bishops to allow First Communions and Confirmations to go ahead will “inevitably” contribute to the spread of the Delta variant.

Fr Tony Flannery said he was “amazed” that bishops had given the go-ahead for ceremonies now, especially as it was “only a matter of five or six weeks before they would be given the go-ahead anyway.” 

The outspoken priest added he was “concerned” that when people in authority, such as the Bishops, openly go against the advice of the health authorities and of the government, “it gives an opening to more extreme groups like the anti-vaxxers and people like that, and that's very unhelpful."

Fr Tony Flannery pictured at the Redemptorist Church, Limerick 
Fr Tony Flannery pictured at the Redemptorist Church, Limerick 

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show, Fr Flannery said that bishops may have missed an opportunity to “relocate” the preparation for sacraments from schools to parishes so the religious ceremony would only be for those who “really want it.” 

He said "a large majority" of those making their First Holy Communion and confirmation do not have church-going parents and are not "committed to the faith."

"The religious aspect of the ceremony doesn't mean much... it's all about what happens afterwards" and "the money the young person will get.” 

“The whole commercial side to it has gone really over the top,” he said, adding that it “cheapened” the ceremonies.

Five Bishops have now given the go-ahead to parish priests to resume First Holy Communion and Confirmation ceremonies, despite being asked by the Government to delay such events until more people are vaccinated.

Archbishop of Dublin, Dermot Farrell, has said that while he still believes the celebration of the sacraments should be deferred until the autumn, he will not stand in the way of parishes considering to go ahead with the ceremonies.

He has asked parishes that choose to recommence Communions and Confirmations to hold short, simple and small ceremonies and to ensure that public health advice and guidelines are strictly adhered to.

Dr Farrell said it is a matter of profound regret that the Government has not responded to a letter from the country's Catholic archbishops which was sent last week.

In the letter, the archbishops informed the Taoiseach that the celebration of the sacraments might resume in some parishes from mid-August.

The decision was reached following the relaxation of restrictions in other areas and the success of the vaccination programme thus far.

In a letter to priests in the Dublin diocese, Dr Farrell said it is perplexing that restrictions on celebrations of the sacraments remain in place on the grounds that they may lead to family gatherings while none are applied to other events such as sporting events, birthdays or weddings.

"Many have concluded that, in the absence of appropriate justification, these guidelines are discriminatory," said Dr Farrell.

The Bishop of Raphoe is the latest church leader to defy the ban, joining the bishops of Elphin, Clogher, Meath and Waterford and Lismore.

Mconalogue urges priests to 'show leadership

Bishop Kevin Doran was the first to give the go-ahead for the ceremonies 
Bishop Kevin Doran was the first to give the go-ahead for the ceremonies 

Yesterday, the Agriculture Minister urged priests to "show leadership" and not break the Covid guidelines around communions and confirmations.

Minister Charlie McConalogue said he understands the "frustration" that families and members of the church now feel, however, he said the religious ceremonies should not go ahead as the guidance is "there for a reason and it's important that it's followed."

"While it is frustrating to see these delays, no one's going to get hurt by waiting a little bit longer to avail of it and to have that special day. And there is a reality out there that people are still becoming infected by COVID people are still going into hospital with Covid."

Minister Charlie McConalogue said he understands the "frustration" that families and members of the church now feel, however, he said the religious ceremonies should not go ahead as the guidance is "there for a reason and it's important that it's followed."
Minister Charlie McConalogue said he understands the "frustration" that families and members of the church now feel, however, he said the religious ceremonies should not go ahead as the guidance is "there for a reason and it's important that it's followed."

Mr McConalogue added: "Like many people in the country I have very strong memories. I myself have both communion and confirmation and it's a very important day in everyone's life and the Government very much knows that too.

"But the public health advice is still very clear in relation to being cautious and in relation to the advice around communions, and confirmations."

Raphoe priest, Fr Eamonn Kelly said he is happy to start planning for Confirmations and First Holy Communion ceremonies because they are doing so “under the strictest protocols” and are taking “every precaution” possible.

“We have already cancelled these ceremonies twice for the children, I think it’s time to go ahead with them now.” 

Asked about the potential of outbreaks at parties after the ceremonies, the Co Donegal priest said he can't control anything that happens afterward but he “trusts” people.

“And the trust is strong because when I look back at what people have done to try and avoid the spread of coronavirus, we see during the lockdowns the kilometer limit was held so well by so many, and we can’t be dictated to by a few that go ahead and break the rules.” 

Speaking to Morning Ireland, Fr Kelly said it will be September before such ceremonies take place in any case, but they require “a bit of planning” and it’s only fair to give people notice.

However, not all priests are happy to go-ahead with the ceremonies.

On the same programme, Cork priest Fr Tim Hazelwood said plans by some dioceses to go ahead with Confirmation and First Communion ceremonies were “putting people’s lives at risk”.

He said he believes the Church should continue to follow the advice given by public health officials and said he was saddened the Church was one of the first to go against it.

“We are supposed to be pro-life."

“If we’re totally honest, the number of people from the cohorts from First Communion and Confirmation who come [to mass] every week is very low,” he added.

“It's the social aspect of it.” 

“And priests are going to be under fierce pressure because parents are mad to have it, they want a day for their children.” 

Tipperary priest Fr Iggy O’Donovan said going ahead with the ceremonies at present is "not worth the risk."

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast he said: "For the sake of a few weeks, it would be a pity if we were seen to compromise or change tact at the last moment."

On Friday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he did not approve of any “unilateral breaching” of Covid-19 regulations “no matter what or where they come from.” 

"I would say to the Church authorities that the Government's only motivation here in terms of the regulations we have brought in, in respect of gatherings and congregations is to protect people, is to protect people's health.

“And I think that should be accepted in good faith.”

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