The Government has indicated an unwillingness to relax the ban on public Masses after a meeting between Church leaders and Taoiseach Micheál Martin. However, both sides said that the important role of faith was acknowledged and that dialogue would continue.
The move will disappoint many priests and parishioners who have been working hard to ensure that Mass is safe. It also means that Ireland along with Wales is the only place in Europe to impose such a ban on public worship.
A statement from the Government press office this morning (Thursday) said that last night’s meeting “focused mainly on the effect which the current Covid-19 restrictions are having on the health and well-being of the faith community and the great desire to return to worship as soon as possible”.
The Government statement said that the bishops present at the meeting “emphasised that they are fully supportive of the public health messages but highlighted that the coming together in prayer and worship, especially for Mass and the sacraments, is fundamental to Christian tradition and a source of nourishment for the life and well-being of whole communities.
“The importance of gathering for worship as a source of consolation and hope at Christmas time was stressed,” according to the statement.
While acknowledging the important role of faith, the statement said that Mr Martin “outlined the reasoning behind the Government’s plan for living with Covid-19 and the need to strike the right balance between all forms of social and economic activity and public health.
“The archbishops emphasised the need to protect the most vulnerable in society at this time. They also acknowledged the positive value of keeping our schools open, especially for those who may otherwise be educationally disadvantaged by not having access to technology or the daily support of their teachers.
“The need for a shared understanding of the effects of the pandemic as it evolves and to align our response accordingly was recognised. All agreed the importance of ongoing constructive engagement and solidarity in facing and overcoming the challenges of Covid-19 together,” the statement concluded.
The Church was represented at the meeting by Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop Michael Neary, Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly and Bishop Dermot Farrell.