Church leaders to ask Taoiseach to lift ban on public Masses

Church leaders to ask Taoiseach to lift ban on public Masses Parishioners have expressed deep sadness at fresh restrictions.

The four archbishops have requested a meeting with Taoiseach Micheál Martin in a bid to life the ban on people attending Mass under Level III coronavirus restrictions.

Countries with much more stringent guidelines currently in place have not banned public worship and the Republic remains the only place in Europe where Catholics cannot attend Mass due to state restrictions.

RTÉ is reporting tonight (Thursday) on a letter sent on behalf of Primate of All-Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin and the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary and the Archbishop of Cashel & Emly Kieran O’Reilly asking for more understanding.

Since churches were permitted to re-open in the Republic for Mass on June 29, parishioners have worked tirelessly to ensure protocols like sanitising and physical-distancing were rigidly adhered to. It was a body blow to congregations when public worship was banned under revised guidelines issued by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).

In a statement last night (Wednesday) the hierarchy called on Catholics not to lose heart and said they would consider to impress upon the civil authorities the vital importance of attendance at Mass for Catholics.

The bishops said in their statement that while they fully support the guidance of the public health authorities, they wish to “engage constructively with the civil authorities” to ensure that people can continue to gather for Mass and the sacraments.

In their letter to Mr Martin, the four archbishops re-iterated the point insisting that Masses “are not simply ‘gatherings’ of people, but profound expressions of who we are as a Church.”

In June, The Irish Catholic reported on correspondence which revealed that the Archbishop of Dublin had warned then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar about increasing unhappiness about restrictions as churches re-opened in other parts of Europe.

In a note to Mr Varadkar on May 7 obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Dr Martin 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”.