Former Taoisigh Bertie Ahern and John Bruton have said the current restrictions on church services must be addressed and “flexibility” given.
Speaking to The Irish Catholic, Mr Bruton said there can never be “absolute safety”, and that “anyone who is a practicing Catholic would regard the sacraments as essential”.
“The problem now I think is that, while people are able to keep in touch with the rituals of the Church through attending Mass online, both Confession and Holy Communion are not accessible in the normal way because of the lockdown.”
Although there would be “practical problems” regarding how parishes would limit the number of people attending a Mass, he said, it requires “creative thinking” and support from Government.
“I think the dialogue in this matter should be from both directions, that it isn’t just for the churches to come up with a solution or for individual parishes, although that is very important, but the health authorities should also be thinking about this and seeking to find solutions,” Mr Bruton said.
“The Church should be assisted in finding a solution rather than having to do it all themselves.”
Under the current Government roadmap through the coronavirus pandemic, public church services are set to resume on July 20. If a safe method of delivering the sacraments is established, Mr Bruton said the date should be brought forward.
He said: “I imagine the Government is open to that because they’ve indicated flexibility for other sectors, less essential sectors you might say.
“It would be sending the wrong signal if the authorities were to say that because in secular terms the Sacraments are not essential, that they are not essential; they are essential in religious terms.”
Bertie Ahern, speaking to Brendan O’Connor on RTÉ 1 on Pentecost Sunday, brought up the issue of churches, saying: “New Zealand two weeks ago went to 100 in churches, 100 for funerals, there’s some things I don’t know why we’re so conservative on.
“Think of 100 people in a church that holds 1,500…to be honest with you, I was in my supermarket the other night which is smaller than the local church and there was about 100 people in the supermarket, but only 10 in the church – I don’t get that.”