Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell has said that many people believe Government restrictions on First Holy Communion and confirmation ceremonies are “discriminatory” and indicated to priests he will not stand in their way of they proceed with the sacraments of initiation in a safe way.
He said that while it is his belief that the celebrations should be postponed to the Autumn, priests can proceed if they consider it safe to do so.
In a letter seen by The Irish Catholic dated today (August 3) Dr Farrell tells priests: “If you consider it safe to celebrate the sacraments in this context, it would be prudent to ensure that families confirm their awareness of the public health guidelines regarding household mixing”.
The archbishop adds that: “the format of such ceremonies should be adapted appropriately, as was the case in many parishes last year, with shorter, simpler and smaller ceremonies, which were nonetheless reverent and joyous”.
He describes as: “a matter of profound regret that there has been no engagement [from the Government] with Church representatives regarding revision of public health guidelines”.
The letter goes on: “Understandably, many have been concerned and disappointed that current guidelines restrict celebrations of the sacraments on the apparent grounds that they may lead to family gatherings, which may breach public health guidelines on household mixing.
“This is perplexing, as no such prohibitions are applied to other events, such as sporting of civic events, or other family occasions, such as the celebration of birthdays and anniversaries, or indeed to weddings or funerals.
“Many have concluded that, in the absence of appropriate justification, these guidelines are discriminatory,” Archbishop Farrell writes.
Expressing his own view that postponement to the Autumn remains “appropriate” he writes: “Where, nevertheless, parishes are considering holding such celebrations, in consultation with the Parish Pastoral Council and the families concerned, it is important that public health advice and protocols regarding public worship are strictly complied with, not least with regard to gatherins in the church grounds both before and after ceremonies,” the letter adds.
Dublin – the country’s largest diocese with more than a million Catholics – is the latest to give the green light for First Holy Communion and Confirmation ceremonies to proceed. Check out The Irish Catholic online and in print this week for more news from other bishops who plan to proceed with the sacraments.