Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has hit out against those organising anti-mask protests and warned that any restrictions on the right to public worship must be minimal.
Speaking this evening (Thursday) at an online gathering of the Dublin Council of Churches, Dr Martin praised the tireless commitment of those – particularly frontline workers – responding to the pandemic.
However, he said it would be wrong “not to note the emergence of some negative trends in Irish society.
“When you look at some of the protests against mask-wearing and other restrictive measures, behind outward talk of respecting individual liberties there was also [a] strain of negation of the virus,” he said.
Dr Martin said that “Some of those who took part in these anti-mask demonstrations were the same groups that attempted to overturn my car when I attended an Islamic gathering in Croke Park.
“There are voices out there who do not understand, or do not want to understand, what religious tolerance means in the Ireland of today and that should concern all of us,” the archbishop warned.
On the fact that Government restrictions currently ban public worship in the Republic – the only part of Europe with such restrictions – Dr Martin insisted that “There can be a justification for the closing of churches, especially at crucial moments or to protect vulnerable people”. But, he warned that “such measures should however be limited to the minimum period necessary”
He said that “For Catholics, the celebration of Mass and the sacraments is at the very heart of what it means for us to be a Christian community. These are not simply ‘gatherings’ of people, but profound expressions of who we are as a Church.
“For parishes and individual Catholics the loss of these spiritual supports can be a source of great anxiety and fear and can have a detrimental impact on their overall health and well-being,” the archbishop said.
He said that the crisis be a moment of pause to ponder on the future of the Church in Ireland. “We have to use the current situation to reflect on what kind of Church we need during the pandemic and afterwards.
“There will be no rushing back to church services. The inability to attend public worship has led to creative use of social media to make services available online.
“When we reflect on situations in which people have been or are today prohibited through persecution to attend public celebrations, the faith is maintained in other ways especially through fostering faith in the family,” he said.
Urging Catholics to be creative in reaching out, Dr Martin said: “We can rightly lament the loss of our ability to celebrate in our cathedrals but we must also remember that the Lord has placed us in the unexpected new Cathedral of the harshness of human suffering.
“That is where we are called to be and to minister, and these new cathedrals will be strikingly more authentic and remarkably less clerical and institutional,” he said.
Dr Martin along with the Primate of All-Ireland Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary and Archbishop of Cashel and Emly Kieran O’Reilly wrote to Taoiseach Micheál Martin last week expressing concern at the ban on public worship. They requested a meeting with the Taoiseach and are awaiting a reply.