Churches around Ireland are to sound their bells across the country today, St Patrick’s Day as most Masses remain suspended over fears around coronavirus.
The Government announced last week that public celebration of the country’s patron saint would not take place this year and most public Masses are not going ahead – the first time in centuries.
Bishop Phonsie Cullinan of Waterford and Lismore said that the ringing of the bells is a call to prayer “and a reminder of the faith that has sustained the people of our island throughout the centuries.
“The bell ringing is also an expression of social solidarity, an encouragement to care for one other, and for all of us to be inspired and remain hopeful at the difficult time,” he said.
Bishop of Meath Tom Deenihan said that “while our Masses are now offered privately, though in many cases accessible through webcams and websites, the call to prayer is important.
“This is a time to pray and it has been heartening over the past few days to see people coming to our churches by themselves to offer silent prayers. We are not alone and the bells are a reminder of the presence of faith and prayer in these time,” he said.
Primate of All-Ireland – who is successor of St Patrick as Archbishop of Armagh – said that “in turning towards God for protection, as St Patrick did, I ask for your prayers in particular for our brave and selfless health workers and for the medical scientists who are searching for a vaccine and better treatments.
In his annual St Patrick’s Day message, Archbishop Eamon said that “in Ireland we have a strong tradition that God is at our side in time of trouble. It remains important to keep reminding ourselves and others in the coming days that we are never completely isolated: Christ is beside us, before us, behind us, on our right and on our left, beneath us and above us”.
A statement from the Diocese of Ferns – where some Masses are still going ahead – said that Bishop Denis Brennan has invited parishes to ring church bells “as a call to prayer and solidarity at this time of the coronavirus pandemic>
Bishop Brennan is also asking members of adoration groups throughout the diocese to recite a specially composed prayer for the duration of the coronavirus crisis during their weekly adoration gatherings in churches.
Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary said that “while many businesses and services are closed in the interests of public health, and while the regular weekday and weekend Masses with congregations are not being celebrated, church buildings remain open and people are welcome to come to pray.
“The ringing of church bells in unison across the country on our national saint’s day is a simple reminder that the Church stands with and supports the people during this public health emergency.
“Our initiative for St Patrick’s Day has in mind the many Irish men and women around the world who are affected by this pandemic and who may be worried and concerned about parents, family members and friends at home. As the bells ring out let them carry a warm greeting to our sisters and brothers abroad. At this difficult time, I assure them of my thoughts and prayers on the feast day of our national patron”, Archbishop Neary said.