In the passage that recounts the disciples’ encounter with the Risen Lord on the road to Emmaus, one of the most evocative lines is where Cleopas says plainly “our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free”.
The despondency is palpable.
It’s a feeling I am sure that many Catholics can identify with given the announcement this week that public Masses in the south must now be suspended on the pretext of protecting public health. Yet, neither the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) nor the Government has provided any rationale as to why going to Mass is dangerous, but getting a haircut or a pedicure is fine.
For people of Faith, full and active participation in the Eucharist is not a pastime or an optional aid to spirituality – it is central to what it is to be Catholic.
The public health authorities have provided no evidence (if such evidence exists) that public worship is a risk during the current phase of responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
This is unsettling an indicative of an attitude of disinterest from both NPHET and the current Government. If one casts a mind back to the first roadmap back to re-opening society that was published in April, religious ceremonies were not due to recommence until August 10 – the same day as museums and art galleries and weeks after restaurants and bars.
After considerable pressure, this was changed and public Masses began again on June 29. Since that date, parishioners and priests have moved heaven and earth to ensure that those present at Mass were safe.
A literal army of volunteers have assembled across the country to ensure that churches could re-open for Mass. And yet, they now find themselves shuttered once again with public worship banned and nothing but silence from the public health authorities.
A literal army of volunteers have assembled across the country to ensure that churches could re-open for Mass. And yet, they now find themselves shuttered once again”
No-one wants to be reckless when it comes to public health, and everyone want to continue to ensure that places of worship remain safe.
At the same time, in the absence of evidence from NPHET that churches present a risk to public health Catholics are rightly dismayed that the moment restrictions start to be put back in place Mass is one of the first things to go.
It is not good enough – people of Faith deserve better and our Church leaders should raise their voices in the way that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin did with the Government back in the early summer.