Faithful hungry for ‘real presence’ says Laois priest

Faithful hungry for ‘real presence’ says Laois priest Fr Paddy Byrne

A parish priest in Co. Laois says the Covid-19 pandemic has produced a greater hunger for presence and gathering among Catholics.

Fr Paddy Byrne of Abbeyleix, who is originally from Carlow town, told The Irish Catholic that online platforms have increased the spiritual need for “real presence”.

“These are very strange times and the virtual world, I think, is making people more hungry for the ‘real presence’.


“Whilst we are in a pandemic that’s not possible,” Fr Byrne adds, “the Church in Ireland is responding well to offering mediums where people can connect by webcam, Facebook and in different ways to their spiritual community.

“However, there is an apparent need for that sense of presence and gathering,” he said.

The coronavirus has killed more than 1,600 people so far on the island of Ireland and Fr Byrne feels the grief of many bereft families has been left “hugely exaggerated” by virtue of the “necessary restrictions” that are in place.

“I’m a little reserved on the question of the ten person restriction to funerals,” he says.

“I think that is an arbitrary number and one, in terms of social distancing, that I question if it is necessary?


“If I had a church which can accommodate a hundred people or one that can accommodate a thousand people, why can I still only have 10 persons?

“I would appreciate better communication on this,” Fr Byrne continues, “in no way am I trying to lighten or demean the necessity of having restrictions, but that this is a huge issue for bereaved families.”