A parish priest in Cork has said he "expressed personal views on the vaccination programme" when he told his parishioners to "act with great caution" when it comes to taking the Covid-19 vaccine at Mass on Sunday morning.
In a statement issued by the Diocese of Cork and Ross on behalf of Bishop Fintan Gavin, Fr Ted Sheehan of Glounthaune said he apologises if his remarks "caused offence or may cause confusion about the Catholic teaching" on the vaccination programme for Covid-19.
Speaking from the altar at 10am Mass on Sunday, Fr Sheehan of Glounthaune claimed the Bishops of Ireland said that church personnel "should promote the taking of the vaccine".
Fr Sheehan said: "Now, I'm not promoting the taking of the vaccine or the not taking of the vaccine, I think it's an individual choice for people.
"But I certainly would be worried that the Pharma companies that are producing the vaccines have no legal responsibility if anything goes wrong, so I think it should be a red flag for most right-thinking people."
He added that there were "other issues" that needed to be looked at before the public can "be forced" into taking vaccines.
"This medicine is supposed to be there to help us and to keep us safe, so if they're not 100% sure or at least 99% sure what's in the vaccine, then people should act with great caution."
Fr Sheehan also directed criticism at Pope Francis who he said issued a letter to all Vatican employees saying if they refused to take the vaccine they "could be demoted or lose their jobs."
He remarked it "doesn't seem to be very Christian but there you go."
The Vatican has since clarified the decree and said "alternative solutions" would be found for those who do not want to get the vaccine.
Bishop Gavin said that he along with the other Irish Bishops supports the vaccination programme "not only for people’s good ‘but for the protection of life and the health of those who are vulnerable and for the common good of humanity."
He said he encourages all parishes and Church personnel to promote the vaccination programme and encourages elderly parishioners, relatives and neighbours to avail of the opportunity "to protect their health and the health of the whole community."