Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said that the Government’s failure to agree a protocol on allowing more than 50 people at Mass means some churches are forced to turn people away, making physical distancing more problematic.
State authorities had originally said that public Masses could recommence on June 29. At the time, outgoing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that the limit would be 50 congregants. However, he later relented and said that a protocol would be worked out to allow greater numbers. But, days later officials at the Department of the Taoiseach said the limit must remain in place due to concerns expressed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).
Officials had said that a protocol could be worked out this week allowing greater participation. However, in a statement this evening (Thursday) Archbishop Martin said that “Churches across the Republic of Ireland are still awaiting information on the announced protocol between the Government and religious bodies about the numbers that may attend religious services, especially in large buildings”.
He pointed to the fact that North of the border public health advice is that the number should calculated on the basic of proportionality to the size of each church whereas in the Republic a blanket cap of 50 people is still in place.
“This limit been working, albeit with some difficulty, at weekday Masses since June 29. Priests around the country are concerned that for Sunday Mass – even with multiple Masses – the 50 people cap for each Mass would mean turning many people away or having them remain outside where social distancing is more problematic,” he said.
Dr Martin also circulated a photograph (see above) at 10am Mass at the Church of Our Lady of Consolation in Donnycarney, Dublin. He said the picture “shows how the church has been kitted out with clear indications of social distancing with stewards in place to monitor adherence to the norms.
“It shows an ambience far different to what is authorised in other sectors,” he said.