The Archbishop of Dublin has called for churches to be allowed to reopen for public worship when Level 5 restrictions are expected to be eased on April 5 and called for more than 10 people to be allowed to attend funerals.
Speaking to Newstalk’s Hard Shoulder today, Archbishop Dermot Farrell described the current funeral restrictions as “very cruel and very sad”.
He explained there are churches in Dublin with a capacity for 2,500 people in which just 10 people were allowed to attend a family funeral and that in some cases brothers and sisters of the deceased were not able to attend the service due to the cap on mourners.
“This is tolerable only in the most extreme circumstances, and for the shortest possible period,” Dr Farrell said in his message for St Patrick’s Day delivered at St Patrick’s Church, Ringsend, Dublin, this morning.
With churches reopening for public worship in Northern Ireland on Friday March 26, he said there should be an all-Ireland approach to worship and that churches south of the border should be operating in line with churches in Northern Ireland.
The Catholic bishops in Northern Ireland voluntarily took the decision to close church doors to public worship at the height of the third wave of the virus after Christmas. However, the five bishops announced today their decision to reopen at the end of the month.
Dr Farrell said this difference between churches in Northern Ireland and churches in the Republic was “going to cause problems” because five Catholic dioceses straddle the Border.
“We have many parishes that straddle the Border. You are now going to find parishes along the Border where one church is open at one end and another church at the other end is not open,” Dr Farrell explained.
“I am asking that worship should be looked at on an all-Ireland basis,” he said.
In his message for St Patrick’s Day, he also referred to the right to public worship which is protected by Article 44 of the Constitution.
He said the number who are allowed to worship cannot be “randomly determined as if were some mathematical formula. This is about people: the protection of people’s health, and the fostering of people’s wellbeing”.
While a balance must be struck, easing restrictions on worship has, he said: “A better-founded statutory claim than other activities which may be pressed by powerful commercial interests.”
Whenever public worship was permitted, he added, parishes have been diligent in operating within the guidelines, with great commitment by staff and volunteers to stewarding, sanitising and managing attendance.
“For many people, being denied the opportunity to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion has been difficult. It has affected how they are nourished and sustained by their faith. Let us not underestimate the consequences of this in people’s lives,” he warned.