Speedy ceremonies risk reducing sacramental acts to commodities

first communion

Parishes risk reducing sacramental acts to commodities when they bow to pressure to rush through First Communion and Confirmation ceremonies.

“Some efforts, often well intentioned, run the risk of reducing the administration of sacramental acts almost to the level of a supermarket in which you can drop in and ‘get the sacrament done.’

“This would reduce the Eucharist to a commodity”, Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin says.

Martin was responding to the displeasure some parents and grandparents have expressed because First Communion and Confirmation ceremonies have been cancelled because of the Covid-19 restrictions.

Martin says he understands families’ disappointment when these ceremonies are postponed.

Martin says he is worried “about parishes taking initiatives to ‘get First Communions and Confirmations done.’

“I appreciate the pressure that families and schools can bring in parishes. We have to remember that First Communions and Confirmations are sacramental acts and must be celebrated in an appropriate liturgical context and catechetical preparation.”

“The idea that sacramental acts have to be done quickly and can be done outside the normal liturgical situation is false. There is no urgent need to celebrate these sacraments just because they fit into the school calendar.”

Martin is also concerned that many people are underestimating the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic in Ireland.

“The spread of the virus has reached serious levels and constitutes a real risk of radically increased infection within the community,” he says.

Although there’s no evidence the virus is being spread in worshipping communities, he says Dublin’s response to it is appropriate at this time.

Another concern Martin spoke of is what he calls the “serious distortion” of a Vatican document that addresses worship amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I have seen reports quoting a Vatican document urging a rapid return to normal worship. Some are using that as an indication that the official line of the Holy See is to object to restrictions. This is a very serious distortion of what that document says.

“The document . . . strongly supports the application of restrictive measures and ‘painful decisions even to the point of suspending the participation of the faithful in the celebration of the Eucharist for a long period’.”

Martin’s concern for people’s safety is echoed by other faith leaders.

Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson says prospect of churches closing under Level 3 restrictions was “both frustrating and frightening.” He added: “It is important that we face this with resilience and hope.”

The Islamic Foundation of Ireland mosque on the South Circular Road also opted for safety, having Friday prayers live on Facebook when no-one was allowed in the mosque.

Dublin’s small Jewish community says it hopes for some scope this weekend to mark Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The community is staying in close contact by phone and Zoom.


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