Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has said there is no room for “self-dispensation” or “self-interpretation” regarding health guidelines in place to protect from Covid-19.
He warned that attempts to jump the queue by “individuals or communities puts everyone at risk”.
The statement came after reports that a parish in Blackrock, Co. Dublin, was allowing people to attend Mass. While not naming the church, Archbishop Martin confirmed that the parish has now stopped.
He said: “A vital dimension of the fight to address the coronavirus crisis is public health policy that proposes a sequenced effort to ensure that the reopening of diverse elements of society is properly and safely managed.
“The current public health policy has required sacrifice on the part of all of us. People have accepted that. I think of those who have had to bury a loved one without the normal process of grieving, with funeral rites limited to a bare minimum. We must show respect for those whose sacrifice has been greatest.
“Public health policy will only work when its proposals and sequencing are fully respected by all. There is no room for self-dispensation from or self-interpretation of the norms.
“Jumping the queue by individuals or communities puts everyone at risk. I have reminded all parishes this week that disregard for the norms of public health is something that is unacceptable.”
Archbishop Martin said that he fully appreciates the desire to be able to take part in public worship and that the Irish Bishops’ Conference will publish a document – a draft of which has been reported on by this paper – with a checklist regarding the steps each parish must take before reopening churches for public worship.
Each parish will be asked to provide a detailed plan regarding its preparations, with the prelate saying the task will require “more than simple social distancing”.
He added: “This Irish Church is working intensely to ensure that the reopening of churches for public worship will take place in a manner and at a time that is safe. I appeal to all Churches in the Archdiocese of Dublin to adhere strictly to public policy, even if it involves patience and personal suffering.
“I repeat the words of Pope Francis when Churches in Italy were re-opened for public worship: ‘but please, let us proceed respecting the norms, the prescriptions we are given to safeguard the health of each individual and the people.’”
Government guidelines currently state that public Masses won’t be on the cards until July 20, however many churches are open for private prayer.