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‘Are we going to live in a communist state or what?’ - Priest refusing to close Church suggests faith will stop virus spreading

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A Cavan priest who is defiantly holding Mass every day despite Covid-19 legislation rendering it illegal has suggested that God will protect people from Covid-19.

Fr PJ Hughes has been issued warnings by gardaí, including the threat of prosecution under new legislation drafted for Covid-19 regulations, but he said he “could not accept” the Church and government rulings on not holding mass.

The priest pointed out he was not forcing anyone to go to Mass and told those that still wanted to attend his Church that “faith will carry them through”.

Fr Hughes, of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Mullahoran spoke to Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio One about his decision to defy the official Church and government rulings to close his church to celebrations of Mass.

When asked what he would say to a scientist that told him faith would not stop the virus from spreading, Fr Hughes said: “I would say to that scientist that he is wrong. God has healed people and he has even raised people from the dead. God can heal and cure the greatest and worst diseases and he has done,” Fr Hughes said.

The Cavan priest said he was paid a visit by the local Sergeant, who had a file for the DPP with them, and was told he would face a fine of €2,500 and up to six months in jail if he did not close his Church.

Fr Hughes refused to close his doors and has since called on the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and Minister for Justice Helen McEntee to “apologise to the Catholic people in this country who want to practice their faith.”

“It’s telling people that they cannot practice their faith, are we going to live in a communist state or what? I know that the virus is there but at the same time we have to live and god can help us. A scientist cannot tell me that what he does is more important than what god does.

“I am not responsible for them [parishioners] coming into the Church. A religion is not a law. Our faith is our faith and people are free to practise their faith. The Church has to be left open as it is their Church. I am here to serve the Church and its people, not the government.

“Unfortunately, the official Church has said to close the doors and obey the law but I can’t accept that, I’m sorry,” Fr Hughes said.

Fr Hughes said he believes other priests that have closed their churches are afraid of disobeying the Bishop and the government and are “full of fear” that they will be blamed for the spread of the virus.

“It’s people’s free choice to practise their faith - people who don’t want to go to church don’t have to go - but the people who do want to; their faith will carry them through. God can heal and cure the greatest and worst diseases and he has done,” Fr Hughes said.

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