Extra clothes, shorter Mass times – Irish churches address rising energy bills

churches rising energy bills

Some Irish churches have introduced shorter Masses, and parishioners have been advised to wear extra clothes in church as Catholic clergy grapple with rising energy bills.

Fr Andrew O’Sullivan, a parish priest in Dublin, said increased costs made it financially challenging for parishes to continue heating buildings, despite churches being ‘freezing’.

He has been forced to reduce the length of Mass from 50 to 30 minutes this winter to help with rising energy costs, which have increased by 25%.

In terms of community centres, O’Sullivan said: “We are faced with the choice of charging more or closing our doors.”

The centres are used by worshippers, community groups and charities.

He and other priests are advising parishioners to wear vests while preparing to cut down Mass lengths.

Some priests have already started shortening their Masses to save on energy.

South Kerry priest Fr Patsy Lynch said: “I’ve been doing it in 30 minutes. That’s not a long time.”

“I think every priest is being affected by rising energy bills. There is an energy crisis, and we all must pay due attention and take the necessary steps.”

The Catholic Church said its buildings should be included in the Government’s energy support schemes. Financial supports were announced for households and businesses in Budget 2023, but not for community facilities.

The bishops noted how “especially during winter, church buildings are frequented by the homeless and vulnerable to keep warm and to be safe.”

In the capital, Fr O’Sullivan is responsible for the Church of Mary Immaculate in Rathmines and the Church of the Three Patrons in Rathgar. These are both huge buildings and, therefore, difficult to keep warm.

Fr O’Sullivan said: “The churches are colossal buildings. My great fear is that if bills keep rising, we may find ourselves in a position where we simply won’t be able to pay them.”

“If we get bills of tens of thousands of euros, we’ll have to ask people to wear an extra layer of clothing, and then if that doesn’t work, we will just be forced to shorten things, or close doors if we have to.”

Fr O’Sullivan said he fears for vulnerable community members such as “the homeless and most isolated in society” who rely on the church for warmth.

“Our parish churches and our centres are buildings that are safe spaces for a lot of people, and even the homeless come here to keep warm and safe. It’s going to push a lot of parishes into a position where they just can’t afford to pay.”

Fr O’Sullivan explained that while energy bills for both churches have already risen by 25%, he fears the ‘next batch’ of bills is going to be even higher.


Irish Times


CathNews New Zealand

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