Priests in Ireland preparing post-lockdown plans

Priests in Ireland are preparing post-lockdown plans for their parishes so they will be ready when coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions on public worship begin to ease.

The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, says reopening churches for worship “has serious public health concerns and we have to make sure that we are ready for them.”

One of the recommendations that has already been put to him is for Eucharistic Ministers to wear facemasks and disposable gloves when distributing Holy Communion.

Another option to ease congregation numbers and facilitate social distancing could be to remove the Sunday obligation so people could go to Mass any day during the week, he says.

In Ireland, restrictions on public worship due to the Covid-19 pandemic have been in place since 23 March, although many have stayed open for private prayer. In Northern Ireland churches are following the UK government’s rules and are completely closed.

Under the Irish government’s exit strategy from lockdown, Sunday Masses will resume on 20 July. Numbers at these Masses will be restricted.

Reopening the churches for public worship will occur during the fourth stage of the Irish government’s five-stage road map for reopening the country.

One of Ireland’s leading psychiatrists has criticised bishops for not actively lobbying the Government to restore public worship sooner than 20 July.

Writing in the Irish Independent this week, Professor Patricia Casey, who is a consultant psychiatrist and Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry said the lockdown has been a huge spiritual sacrifice, in the interests of the common good.

“This makes the resumption of public services a significant event for Christians of all denominations and for other faiths,” she said.

Casey also criticised a lack of information around a meeting last week between the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, and three Archbishops.

“The bishops should advocate for the spiritual welfare of the people in the pews. They should not be sounding like Department of Health bureaucrats.”

“Their passivity does not attract admiration but rather disrespectful glee from those actively hostile to religion,” she said.


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