The Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin warned the Government weeks ago that Catholics were increasingly unhappy and felt they were not being listened to about an earlier return to public Masses as churches re-opened in other parts of Europe, The Irish Catholic can exclusively reveal.
In a note to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on May 7 obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the archbishop referred to the fact that the Italian government had agreed for public Masses to begin after an agreement with Church leaders there.
“There is growing dissatisfaction in Catholic Church circles about postponing the generalised opening of churches until mid-July, without there having been an opportunity for the Church to present its position,” the archbishop wrote.
Dr Martin warned the Taoiseach the Government’s stance was causing anger and that “much of the discussion is taking on a rather nasty anti-government tone”.
He said that “this dissatisfaction is likely to grow now that an agreement has been made with the Italian government to permit opening [for Mass], under clear conditions, next week”.
The archbishop urged the Taoiseach to meet with Church leaders to hear the concerns of Mass-goers and “to allow the Catholic Church to feel that its arguments have been respectfully listened to, rather than allow the question to move onto the airwaves in a non-productive way”.
The following week, Archbishop Martin sent another email to officials in the Department of the Taoiseach outlining what Church leaders have done in other countries to provide for a safe return to public Masses. In this email, he pointed out that “for Catholics, attending Mass is important for spiritual and mental wellbeing”.
He also outlined how parish planning is well underway to ensure a safe return to Mass.
Later that same day May 14, an online meeting took place including the Taoiseach and his officials, Dr Martin, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh and Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly of Cashel and Emly.
An internal government note on the meeting released to The Irish Catholic said that “the Church leaders expressed their appreciation to have an opportunity to share their thoughts on the re-opening of churches in time.
“They detailed the work that is being done at all levels to develop a national Church plan for the safe re-opening of churches and emphasised it will play its part in applying public health measures to ensure the health and safety of all concerned,” the note said.
Files reveal archbishop’s steady work for return to public Masses – Editorial by Michael Kelly