A Church of Ireland bishop has called for complete adherence to public health guidelines amid growing controversy at the approach taken to Communions and Confirmations within the Catholic Church.
At least six Catholic bishops have said communions can go ahead in August against the advice of public health officials.
Bishop of Killaloe Fintan Monahan became the latest Bishop to direct parish priests in his diocese to go ahead with communions.
"We have been obedient to Government guidelines from the outset and safety is still paramount but now we're faced with a deluge of correspondence from parishioners who have had First Holy Communion dates postponed again and again," he said.
"We are telling the priests in these parishes to 'fire ahead’ but to do so very carefully and we’re asking families to keep parties to a minimum."
However, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, Dr Paul Colton, has warned against a “pick and mix” approach to the implementation of health guidelines.
A statement on behalf of Bishop Colton said: "The Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross remains of the view that the only safe course of action is to adhere to the public health advice, as he has done throughout this whole pandemic.
"He understands and sympathises with the view that there appear to be more and more anomalies in the remaining restrictions and arising from the process of opening up society, but a ‘pick and mix’ approach to the implementation of guidance risks creating doubts over the entire framework of advice and restrictions."
The Catholic Bishop of Cloyne, William Crean, said parishes in conjunction with schools could make their own decisions.
“It appears that most are happy to wait until September but some smaller rural parishes may proceed later in August, adhering to the public health guidelines,” a statement on behalf of Bishop Crean said.
Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell has called on the Government to “trust parents” who know best how to protect their children.
In a letter sent to priests, 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.
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 on RTÉ radio, Archbishop Farrell said it was very unfair to suggest that parents would not be careful of their children’s health. “Parents have to be trusted," he said.
There are no vaccines available for under 12s, so we protect them by keeping case numbers low and then they can get their education without risk of infection. https://t.co/94oKbuY1zH— Aoife McLysaght (@aoifemcl) August 3, 2021
Geneticist Professor Aoife McLysaght has described the decision by various clergy to allow religious ceremonies to go ahead as “absurd.”
“Our reopening is quite delicate," she said. First Communions and Confirmations are not time-sensitive events like funerals, Prof. McLysaght said.
They could happen at any time and it would be even better to wait a few weeks when a family celebration could be held, she said.
McLysaght accused bishops and archbishops of not setting a good example, calling for a better way to have a conversation to encourage public debate. A bit more patience and a spirit of solidarity are needed, said Prof. McLysaght.
“We can make this more difficult for ourselves, make it harder to get numbers back down again. We need to protect the younger generations.”