The bishops of the Tuam province have “expressed concern” that public worship may not be available “for months to come” under the Government’s five stage plan.
In a statement released today (March 3), the bishops encourage Catholics to obey the law, but says it does not mean “we cannot or should not speak out when we believe that something seems unfair or could be done better”.
The bishops write that “we have consistently made representations, not only for the timely reopening of the public pastoral life of the Church, but also for better protection for elderly residents in nursing homes, for equity in the delivery of critical care in our hospitals and for a fair distribution of vaccines both in our own society and in the wider world”.
The statement lists two issues with the Government’s five-stage plan, ‘Covid-19 Resilience and Recovery 2021: The Path Ahead’, which they “find very difficult to support”.
In particular, they are concerned “that public worship is still excluded even at level 3. This would suggest that we may not have the opportunity to celebrate Mass together for months to come,” the statement reads.
“It ignores the important contribution of communal worship to the mental and spiritual well-being of people of faith. The fundamental importance of Holy Week and Easter for all Christians, makes the prohibition of public worship particularly painful.
“While, as Christians, we are obliged to obey these regulations, we believe that it is our responsibility as Church leaders to make the case for change. We will continue to make fair and reasonable representation and we encourage you to do likewise.”
The statement was signed by Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary, as well as the five bishops of the Tuam province: Dr Brendan Kelly, Bishop of Galway; Dr John Fleming, Bishop of Killala; Dr Kevin Doran, Bishop of Elphin; Dr Michael Duignan, Bishop of Clonfert; Dr Paul Dempsey, Bishop of Achonry.
Meanwhile, Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín has joined the Western bishops in calling for an easing in restrictions on funeral attendance.
The Meath TD said in a statement that “many of the Government’s restrictions are not making sense. Churches are typically the biggest buildings in each town yet there is a cruel 10 people limit at funerals. While at the same time people can stand in a queue for wine and crisps in their local shop”.
In the bishop’s statement, they argue that “a modest increase to 25 would, without compromising safety, bring much consolation to grieving families”.