The Archbishop of Dublin and Bishop of Waterford and Lismore have called for the easing of restrictions on public worship in messages released last night.
Archbishop Dermot Farrell of Dublin used his homily for the Chrism Mass to “emphasise to Government the importance of the earliest possible return to the public worship”. He also warned that the easing of restrictions on public worship must not be “subordinated” to powerful commercial interests.
“There will be further direct engagement with Government to ensure that specific positive consideration is given to public worship by the end of April,” Archbishop Farrell said.
At the same time, Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan warned the Government that the “patience is wearing thin” of those continually denied access to the Mass.
This comes after it was revealed to The Irish Catholic last weekend that the State had confirmed in the Declan Ganley case that it is an offence to go to Mass, or for a priest to say Mass publicly (other than for a funeral or a wedding).
“I must speak out to represent the voices of a very large cohort of people who are growing increasingly weary of being unable to attend Mass and whose spiritual and mental wellbeing is being eroded. Their patience is wearing thin. They are frustrated and feel unrepresented and discriminated against,” the bishop said.
“When I celebrate Mass each Sunday in the cathedral I do so behind closed doors. I am very conscious of those Faithful barred from attending and yet within a few steps of our cathedral, people can go to shops for essential things – to their pharmacy to get medicine, to their supermarket to get food and even to a café for an out-door coffee.
“Yet they cannot receive Holy Communion in their church which is spacious and can accommodate dozens of people safely,” he said.
“I feel that the spiritual well-being of our people has not been given any serious attention by the authorities. To say that ‘services go online’ is very hard to take and feels dismissive,” he added.
Bishop Cullinan expressed sympathy with the Governmental authorities at “this very difficult time” but asked them to take into consideration the spiritual care of hundreds of thousands of Catholics and people of other faiths “who wish to exercise their rights as guaranteed by our constitution”.
“I do not believe that it is an either/or situation. It is not that we must stop public worship to safeguard physical health. We can do both. We must safeguard people’s health and support their spiritual wellbeing,” Bishop Cullinan said.