Archbishop calls halt to First Communion plans

Archbishop calls halt to First Communion plans

Theologians criticise Government over-reach

Chai Brady and Jason Osborne

Archbishop Dermot Farrell has insisted that parishes in Dublin must abandon plans to hold First Holy Communion and Confirmation ceremonies, warning that it may be the autumn before public health rules allow the celebrations to go ahead.

In a letter to priests obtained by The Irish Catholic, Archbishop Farrell insists that “no dates should be proposed by parishes, even provisionally, for such celebrations”.

“It is likely that it will be necessary to postpone until the autumn at least some celebrations which would otherwise take place over coming weeks,” the archbishop writes.

The move comes amid expectations that the Government in the Republic will permit up to 50 people to attend Mass but keep restrictions on weddings and funerals and insist that parishes do not hold ceremonies that could potentially be followed by social gatherings.

Dr Eugene Duffy, a theologian at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick described as “odd” the idea that the Government would try to “choose which sacraments would or wouldn’t be administered.

“They’re making a distinction already between Masses and funerals. You can have much bigger numbers for a Sunday Mass than for a funeral.

“It isn’t their remit to choose which sacraments. It’s their remit alright to legislate for gatherings of people, but within that it’s hardly appropriate or their remit to determine which sacraments could or could not be celebrated,” Dr Duffy said.

Dr Jessie Rogers, Dean of Theology at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth agreed. “I think the Government’s remit can only be to say how many people can gather or these of the kinds of measures that need to be put in place. I wouldn’t say that the Government should be saying you can do this one [Sacrament] and not that one.

“I do think it’s valid that there are restrictions on kinds of gatherings…[but] I don’t think you can single out a particular kind of celebration,” she said.

In his letter, Dr Farrell said that he is “aware that some parishes have been pressed” on the matter. He said that: “Following clarification of the public health requirements, I will issue guidelines regarding when celebrations of the sacraments may be held”.

Meanwhile, north of the border where public Masses recommenced in March, First Holy Communion and Confirmation ceremonies have been taking place in line with requirements for social distancing.