On 19 February the four Catholic Archbishops had a meeting with Taoiseach Micheál
Martin to continue the dialogue about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the lives
of people in our Church. At that meeting the Archbishops affirmed the Church’s
commitment to the protection of life, health and the promotion of the Common
Good. During their Spring Conference, bishops reflected on that meeting and released
the following statement:
“We strongly believe that people’s freedom to worship publicly should be restored as
soon as the current Level 5 restrictions begin to be eased. It is particularly painful for
Christians to be deprived, for the second year running, of the public expression of our
faith during the most sacred time of Holy Week and Easter. This is especially true given
that it has been clearly demonstrated that church buildings are among the safest places
for people to gather. We also re-emphasise that the ongoing severe restrictions on
attendance at Funeral Masses (currently limited to ten) are causing untold grief to many
“Throughout this time of pandemic the approach of the Church has been firmly
grounded in the protection of health and life and in the promotion of the Common
Good. We recognise that strong restrictions are necessary in times of grave threat to
public health. However, such restrictions on personal freedom should be proportionate
and for the shortest time possible. Consideration must also be given to people’s mental,
spiritual and emotional wellbeing. For people of faith, gathering for worship is
fundamental to their identity and to their spiritual lives.
Despite assurances from the Taoiseach last month that the concerns expressed by the
Archbishops would be given serious consideration, we note with disappointment that
none of the issues raised has been responded to. We therefore make an urgent appeal
that the following matters be addressed:
– That the easing of restrictions from Level 5 should include the restoration of
public worship, albeit in a safe and limited way. For people of faith not to be free to
worship until regulations return to Level 2, whilst many other restrictions are eased, is
seen as particularly distressing and unjust.
– That the number of mourners permitted at funeral services be increased, with
immediate effect, noting that in Northern Ireland this number has not been reduced
below 25. The current restriction places immense burdens on grieving families,
compounding the pain of their loss.
We strongly believe that allowing these measures would contribute greatly to giving a
sense of hope and consolation to many in our Church – in line with the central message
of Easter. These measures would be a substantial support to the wellbeing of
individuals and parish communities, and ultimately serve the Common Good of all.
We encourage Catholics to make their views on these issues known to their own TDs
and local representatives.
We wish to remain responsive to public health messaging. For this reason we are
recommending the postponement of the sacraments of First Holy Communion and
Confirmation ceremonies for the time being.
We continue to keep in prayer all who are suffering in this time of Covid, and all who
contribute so much to their care.