Relief as closed churches re-open for prayer
Parishioners and priests across the North have reacted with a mixture of joy and relief after churches began re-opening this week as part of the relaxation of the coronavirus lockdown.
Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown told The Irish Catholic that he is “delighted”.
“It’s fine praying from home but I think people enjoy being able to be in a sacred space before the Blessed Sacrament.
“I think we’re clear enough ourselves that the next priority would be ensuring that government allows us to have small groups for baptisms and small numbers for marriages,” he said.
In Armagh Archdiocese, the motto for the re-opened churches is ‘stay safe – pray safe’.
Archbishop Eamon Martin joined with leaders of other Christian tradition to welcome the re-opening of churches in the North.
“In particular, we are keen to respond to the appeals from those who find great comfort in visiting their church for private prayer, from couples who are anxious that they can proceed with their marriage ceremony and from parents who wish to have their child baptised,” they said in a statement.
It comes as an online poll of readers of The Irish Catholic found that almost nine out of ten readers want a swifter return to public Masses as soon as it is safe to do so.
In the online poll, readers were asked “if churches can show – like other spheres of society – that small public gatherings can begin safely with physical distancing and hygiene measures, do you think small public Masses should begin sooner than currently planned?”
Of those who expressed an opinion, 87% – almost nine out of 10 – said they think that small public Masses should begin sooner than currently planned”. Just 13% voted ‘no’ saying they believe that public Masses should not return sooner, even if it is safe to do so.
Meanwhile, while lots of churches in the Republic did not close for private prayer, many of those that did are starting to open their doors again.
Bishop of Killaloe Fintan Monahan told The Irish Catholic that “the decision was not taken lightly.
“I have some reservations about it, in the interest of the wellbeing and safety of everyone. However on balance, considering the spiritual wellbeing and the careful guidelines recommended it seems a reasonable decision,” he said.